Vatican City, 1 February 2013 (VIS) – The Holy Father's Lenten Message for 2013 was presented this morning in the Press Office of the Holy See. It is entitled: Believing in Charity Calls Forth Charity ― "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us," (1Jn 4:16). Participating in the press conference were: Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"; Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso and Msgr. Segundo Tejado Munoz, respectively secretary and undersecretary of that dicastery; and Dr. Michael Thio, president general of the International Confederation-Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
"This year," Cardinal Sarah said, "the theme of the message focuses on the compelling relationship between faith and charity … between believing in God, the God revealed by Jesus Christ, and the charity that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and that leads us to the horizon of a deeper openness to God and neighbour. … If we talk about the connection between faith and charity we are referring to, at least, two dimensions. Firstly, there can be no true faith without action: whoever believes must learn to give of themselves to others. Secondly, charity calls forth faith, which therefore makes it witness."
Introduced during this Year of Faith, the Lenten Message is "a valuable opportunity to keep this bond between all the faithful alive. In this sense, it is a propitious moment, since we are preparing for Easter, that is, to celebrate the event that Christians recognize as the source of charity: Christ who dies and is resurrected out of love. … Lent is always an opportune time for opening … our hearts to our brothers and sisters who are most in need, sharing what we have with them. In this particular historical moment, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of an informed and documented charity that is attentive to the many areas of poverty, misery, and suffering: from the increase in number and scale of natural disasters, which are not without human responsibility, ... to the escalation of violent conflicts, often forgotten by the media; the worsening of living conditions for many families, also a consequence of the economic and financial crisis that affects so many countries in Europe and around the world; the increase in unemployment, particularly among young adults; and the situations where jobs exist, but the workers are exploited, underpaid and without the minimum security that guarantees the dignity of work itself and consequently, therefore, of the dignity of the human person."
"The centre of this Lenten Message," the cardinal reiterated, "is certainly the indissoluble interrelation of faith and charity. … 'We can never separate, let alone oppose, faith and charity.' However, this separation or opposition can take different forms. … It is a misunderstanding to emphasize the faith, and the liturgy as its privileged channel, so strongly as to forget that they are intended for actual persons who have their own needs―human as they may be―their own history, their own relationships. This becomes so convenient for so many of us―inside and outside of church, which is fragrant with candles, busy putting the sacristy in order, concentrating on abstract theological discussions and clerical disputes―to overlook persons in their totality, the whole person to whom Christ calls."
"Another misconception is thinking that the Church is some kind of great act of philanthropy or solidarity that is purely human, in which social commitment is a priority, or that what is important is the promotion of a humanity that has culture and enough to eat." Such a misunderstanding extends to thinking that "the Church's main task is to build a just and equitable society, forgetting our need for God that lies at the heart of our very being."
"A further misconception is to divide the Church into a 'good Church'―the one of charitable action―and a 'bad Church'―the one that insists on the truth, that defends and protects human live and the universal moral values." Such a misunderstanding proposes that "the Church is fine when taking care of the sick, but it does less well when exercising the duty of raising awareness."
"Faith and charity go together, which is why the Gospel and action go together. What holds as true in personal experience also applies to the Church as a community. … On the one hand, a life based solely on faith runs the risk of sinking into a banal sentimentality that reduces our relationship with God to mere consolation. On the other hand, a charity that kneels in adoration of God without taking into account the source from which it springs and to which every good deed must be directed, is likely to be reduced to mere philanthropy, to mere 'moral activism'. In our lives, therefore, we are called to keep the 'knowing' of truth and the 'walking' in truth united."
"This is why I believe this Message is so timely," Cardinal Sarah concluded. "Not only because it falls during the Year of Faith and therefore in this context we do well to remember that faith and charity are the two faces of the same coin, that is, our belonging to Christ. But is timely because in this phase of history, when humanity struggles to recognize itself and to find a path to the future, the Pope's words present a unified proposal, a way of life in which accepting God engenders acceptance of others in all their dimensions, expressions, and needs. The Church can thus be the beacon of a renewed humanity and contribute to the coming of the 'Civilization of Love'."