To the bishops in charge of Caritas in the name of the Bishops’ Conference
To the Presidents, Secretaries General and Directors of the national Caritas
To the entire Caritas Europa network
You are all probably aware of the situation of the European Union (EU). Several countries are questioning the validity of the work done in the frame of this project. Some say that the EU has to undertake a serious evaluation to confirm or review or rethink fundamentally its role in the reality of today’s Europe. The world has changed since the Union’s founding treaty was signed in Rome 60 years ago. Europe’s engagement in world issues has grown. How to address economic problems as well as humanitarian crises has dominated its political and social discussions, fostering tensions and divisions between Member States. However, amidst these tensions, we see with great joy that the attention for the social teachings of the Church is growing not only in church circles but also in political and humanitarian debates. And it probably was not a coincidence that European leaders met with Pope Francis ahead of the official celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. This meeting reminded us that the founding fathers of the EU were certainly inspired by the gospel thought of unity and collegiality, of caring for the peoples who are most in need, of solidarity and christian love. All these values are part of Europe’s identity and show the influence that christianity has had on the people of Europe, on its history and on the very making of today’s Union.
The underlying meaning of Caritas is christian love. This time of the year, lent and Easter, concluding with the coming of the Spirit of love at Pentecost, reminds us of the origin of our social engagement. For a Christian, service for the poor starts from the very actions of Jesus himself when he approached the poor, the downtrodden. Remember the way He dealt with the blind-born man. He called him from his isolated position to the centre of the crowd. He put mud on his eyes and touched him. Touching a disabled was contrary to the existing law of that time. He invited him to go wash his eyes in the lake and thus gave him an active role in his own cure. Then the blind saw and became a witness of Jesus as the light of this world. A witness who dared to invite the Pharisees to believe in Jesus. For us, the message is that we must go much further than just assisting people with their primary needs. As Christians, we approach people in need to pay attention to their integral being and to invite them to contribute to their own liberating process. Do we dare to go even further than that and make people become witnesses of God’s love for them?
Easter makes us think that the inspiration of our work for the poor finds its roots in the gospel. In Caritas, we have a vision of a world without privileges for anyone, without preference for social or religious belongings. A world where we care about the human person.
Dear Friends, I wish that each one of you can take the necessary time to reflect on the meaning of this season to understand what our service is all about. I hope that you will find the necessary peace to rest from the stressing daily business, and I wish you a fervent experience of the Easter message we receive these days.
From Caritas Europa’s secretariat in Brussels, together with the whole staff, I wish you a very happy Easter season.
+ Luc Van Looy
Bishop of Ghent
President of Caritas Europa