God Is Love

Dear Friend,

Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), has given all of us at Catholic Relief Services a lot to reflect on. More than half of its 71 pages are devoted to Catholic organizations like CRS that carry out the social and charitable mission of the Church.

I had the privilege of being in Rome in the days before the encyclical was released, attending a meeting of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, of which I am a member. Cor Unum is the Vatican body that coordinates the Church's charitable work. In his address to the council, Pope Benedict gave us a preview of this first major document of his papacy. I was struck by both the simplicity and the profundity of his subject: Love.

In his address to us, and in the encyclical, Pope Benedict made it clear that helping our neighbor is not an option for us as Catholics. He told us: “The ecclesial organization of charity is not a form of social assistance that is casually added to the Church's reality, an initiative that could also be left to others. Instead, it is part of the nature of the Church.” In other words, it is our obligation to reach out in solidarity to our brothers and sisters, both in our midst and overseas, particularly those most in need. We are all called to be One Human Family.

As I read the encyclical, I find that Pope Benedict directs several messages – both inspiring and challenging – to those of us who work for organizations like CRS:

Although through our work, we represent the Church – in the case of CRS, the U.S. Catholic community – we should never proselytize. We proclaim the Gospel through our actions.

Our work should always be done in a spirit of humility.

As humanitarian workers, we must also be motivated by a “heartfelt concern” for the people we serve, and humanitarian action should be rooted in selfless love (the love of neighbor called agape).

Those of us who work in the Church's charitable organizations should receive the proper professional training and resources to carry out our tasks.

Papal documents can be tough reads. But God is Love is fairly accessible, and its message is most worthy of reflection for all of us.

Thank you for your continued support and your prayers.

Ken Hackett

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