Organizing the Service of Charity in Southern Africa

 by Makhundu William Kelly

A meeting of Bishops Presidents, National Directors and two Programme Officers from each IMBISA Zone country was held at the Padre Pio Conference Centre in Pretoria from October 29 to November 03, 2018.

Caritas IMBISA Zone comprises of nine countries located in Southern Africa. Namely, they are Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho (Zone Coordinator), Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Caritas Africa organized the Meeting as a follow-up to the Kinshasa Meeting (2012) which set the pace for organizing the work of Charity in Africa and this was followed five years later by the Dakar Conference (September 2017) which affirmed the need for organizing the socio-pastoral work from the Parish Caritas to the Diocesan Caritas, to the National Caritas and finally to the International level.

These Meetings reflected on the work of charity in the light of the current social teachings of the Church and also reflected on how to strengthen the role of Caritas in society as well as the role of Bishops who preside at all levels of the Church.

In a backdrop where the IMBISA Zone is confronted with sombre socio-economic problems, migration, violence on one hand, and on the other with serious environmental problems, indeed a key challenge to the Church as a community of love, sharing and caring for creation. There is an urgent need for the local Church to ensure a capillary presence through the dioceses and parish Christian communities, witnessing the universal and unconditional love to those who are left on the way side of society. This meeting, through a deeper understanding of the social teachings of the Church has helped to organize the work of charity, seeking effectiveness and efficiency.

This denotes, as observed by Pope Benedict XVI in the Encyclical “Deus Caritas Est”, that those engaged in work of Caritas should become professionally competent but with the “formation of the heart”, a “heart that sees”! They must be women and men moved by the charity of Christ, able to hear the cry of the poor and that of creation, working for justice and contributing to the Integral Development of all Human beings and caring for our common home. In the same encyclical Pope Benedict XVI insists on the need to organize charity, in order to make it more receptive to the community.

The Motu Propio “Intima Ecclesiae Natura” (2012) of Pope Benedict XVI provided us with a legal framework for the organization of the service of charity in the Church and by the Church under the authority of Bishops who pride over charity in the Church

In order to make Caritas organisations professionally effective, Caritas Internationalis has put in place the “Caritas Internationalis Management Standards (CIMS)”, which is an important apparatus that contributes to measure Caritas organisations against a set of best practices and determine their capacities and level of professionalism as service of the Church called to serve, accompany and defend the poor.

At a time when development aid funds are dwindling, transparency and accountability are some of the important elements that need to be taken into account in order to tap the meagre resources available wherever they may be found.

The main focus of this Meeting was to provide a common understanding of Caritas as a service of Charity to the Church under the responsibility of the Bishops. It focused on how to become a transparent and accountable organisation in communion and synergy with other actors, upholding fraternal cooperation.

The Directors of each of the nine IMBISA Zone countries stayed on for an additional three days after the departure of the Bishops. They were taken through the CIMS as a valuable tool for attaining Excellency as a social and development instrument of the Church in the Region.

They touched on issues of financial management in order to ensure good use of financial resources as good stewards in the mission entrusted to them by the Church.

Last but not least, this meeting enhanced professionalism and leadership through sharing of experiences, empowered the directors to develop strategic alliances with civil organizations that share the Caritas vision and values and above all imparted a good value based foundation for the work of charity in each of the IMBISA Zone countries.