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A Christmas Message From Caritas Internationalis

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, has issued his annual Christmas message. Catholic Relief Services is a member of the 162-member Caritas Internationalis federation of Catholic relief, development and social services agencies around the world. A video version of this message is available at the Caritas Internationalis website.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, delivers his Christmas message. Photo by Caritas Internationalis

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, delivers his Christmas message. Photo by Caritas Internationalis

2007 will be remembered as a year when flooding took a terrible toll on millions of lives across Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

Over 20 million people were affected in South Asia, Mexico had the worst floods for 50 years, and huge swaths of Africa from the Atlantic seaboard to the Indian Ocean were underwater. Caritas workers responded by providing food, medicine, shelter, solidarity and compassion.

An earthquake in Peru left tens of thousands homeless, while conflict in Congo, Darfur and Somalia continues to destroy innocent lives.

Caritas appealed for $65 million for humanitarian relief in 2007. Over 20 of its emergency appeals were flood- or weather-related, compared to seven the year before.

We must look toward addressing issues such as poverty which force people to live in flood-prone areas.

We must also look at the underlying causes of this flooding, especially at climate change and environmental degradation.

Bad weather was one of the factors behind the food crisis in Zimbabwe, where 4 million people face starvation because of failed harvests and poor governance.

Caritas spoke out against the climate of oppression Zimbabweans live in, as well as expressing solidarity to people who face injustice throughout the world, especially in Myanmar, Colombia and the Holy Land.

Caritas also continued to speak up for those stigmatized by HIV, and we marked 20 years of working together to tackle the pandemic by calling for greater leadership.

This year marked another anniversary, 40 years since Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Populorum Progressio — “On the Development of Peoples.” Its message that “God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples” is more relevant than ever.

Looking forward to next year, Pope Benedict will be addressing the United Nations in April.

Caritas has been campaigning for richer countries to live up to their commitments on providing more and better aid to the developing world.

2008 will be an important year both at the U.N., at the G8 and other international meetings to address the gaps in funding, as well as the impact of climate change and AIDS.

As we face these and other challenges, we remember again Populorum Progressio, “We must travel this road together, united in minds and hearts.”

Merry Christmas

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