FUHAIS, Jordan — The Catholic Church's humanitarian work must be linked to the preaching of God's word, the sacraments and evangelization, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum told a meeting of church aid workers.
Cardinal Robert Sarah opened the gathering of 60 staff members of Caritas Middle East and North Africa in a suburb of Amman, the Jordanian capital, Feb. 20, explaining that charity must be a true expression of the Gospel.
In Jordan to assess how church agencies were responding to the refugee crisis resulting from 23 months of civil war in Syria, Cardinal Sarah praised Caritas Jordan staffers for understanding "that exercising charity is a mission, not a job."
Caritas Jordan aids nearly one-fourth of about 368,000 Syrians who have made their way to the country, said Omar Abawi of the group's emergency response unit.
Citing Pope Benedict XVI's November apostolic letter on the "service of charity," issued "motu proprio" (on the pope's "own initiative"), the Vatican official explained that charity reflects God's commitment to people and "makes us act for the good of every human being."
The pope's apostolic letter laid out the responsibility of each bishop to oversee charitable agencies in his diocese, in order to reinforce such agencies' Catholic identity.
"Special care is to be given to those in need," and to provide them with "teaching, respect and love" as Christ taught in the Gospel, Cardinal Sarah said. Acknowledging that local dioceses are the starting point for charitable service, he called better for coordination of all those in church-based humanitarian efforts.
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem decried the spiraling violence in Syria during the meeting of Caritas representatives from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
"Thousands of Syrian mothers, fathers and children are suffering from cold and hunger in camps in Jordan and Lebanon. Displaced others are wandering in Syria, while Caritas is deprived from helping them," he said.
"Fear God, you makers of war and death," Patriarch Twal warned.
Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, representing Caritas Syria, said the agency was able to distribute various supplies, including blankets and winter items, to about 5,000 Syrian families. Mounting violence makes it difficult to reach more, he said.
Cardinal Sarah also met Syrian refugees and Jordan's King Abdullah II to discuss the aid effort.