Pope Francis shakes Cardinal Czerny’s hand at the audience with Caritas  (Vatican Media)

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Pope Francis meets with participants in the General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis, and thanks the confederation of Catholic relief agencies for their tireless efforts and loving charity across the globe.

Continue reciprocating God’s love, Pope Francis said on Thursday, as he encouraged members of the representative council and staff of the Pontifical Foundation Caritas Internationalis in the Vatican.

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of over 160 members who are working at the grassroots in almost every country of the world. Caritas, inspired by the Catholic faith, helps by reaching out to the poor, vulnerable, and excluded, regardless of race or religion, to build a world based on justice and fraternal love.

In his remarks, the Holy Father praised their immense charitable work globally, done out of love and replicating the love of Christ.

“We must never forget that, at the origin of all our charitable and social activity, is Christ Himself who, ‘having loved His own who were in the world, loved them to the end.’

Instruments of God’s love

“Each of us can reciprocate God’s love for us by becoming its sign and instrument for others.”

“There is no better way,” he said, “to show God that we understand the meaning of the Eucharist than by giving to others what we ourselves have received when, in response to Christ’s love, we make ourselves a gift for others.”

The Pope urged them to return to the source of God’s love for us, “precisely because the identity of Caritas Internationalis depends directly on the mission it has received.”

“When we embrace God’s love and when we love one another in Him, we plumb the depths of our identity, as individuals and as Church, and the meaning of our existence,” he said.

The Eucharist

The Holy Father took a moment to speak on how the Eucharist can give them strength, recalling that in the Eucharist is the “real and continuing presence of Christ who offers Himself for us and who loved us first without asking anything in return…”

“The Eucharist is meant for us. It is the food and drink that sustains us on our journey, that refreshes us in our weariness, that lifts us up when we fall, and that calls us freely to accept everything God has done for us and for our salvation.”

In the presence of this “unconditional and superabundant gift that Christ made of Himself out of love,” the Pope said, we must ask ourselves what we can do.

“We can enter into the joyful and superabundant mystery of giving back,” he added, “with gratitude, showing our thanks to God by turning towards our brothers and sisters who suffer, who are in need of care, who require our help to regain their dignity as sons and daughters…”

Love and charity

“Even the most extraordinary actions, even the most heroic acts of generosity, like giving away all one’s possessions to help the starving,” the Pope said, “if done without charity, are of no avail.”

Love, he said, opens our eyes and expands our gaze, allowing us “to recognize in the stranger who crosses our path the face of a brother or sister who has a name, a story, a drama, to which we cannot remain indifferent.”

“In the light of God’s love,” the Pope noted, “the reality of the other comes forth from the shadows, emerges from insignificance, and acquires value, relevance. The needs of our neighbour challenge us, trouble us, and arouse in us a sense of responsibility.”

Attitude matters

The Holy Father reminded them of St. Paul’s description of authentic love. Charity, the Pope suggested, requires making space for others, and being aware of our attitudes.

“Do you want to know if a Christian is living charity? Look closely to see if they are willing to help freely, with a smile on their face, without grumbling or getting annoyed. Charity is patient, Paul writes, and patience is the ability to endure unexpected trials, daily labours, without losing joy and trust in God. For it is the result of a slow travail of the spirit, in which we learn to master ourselves and acknowledge our limitations.”

The Holy Father urged them to “cooperate with the universal Church in sowing seeds, proclaiming the Gospel through good works”; “accompany local Churches in their active commitment to pastoral charity”; and exemplify “unity.”

Pope Francis concluded by commending all of them to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, imparting his blessing and requesting their prayers. – Vatican News