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Caritas’ main challenges are ‘those facing the world’s poorest people’

As delegates at the General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis elect Kirsty Robertson as the new Vice President, she shares her hopes for the renewal of the mission of the Church’s humanitarian confederation.

By Renato Martinez and Linda Bordoni

The 22nd General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis is taking place in Rome and is scheduled to wrap up on Tuesday with a press conference in which the newly elected President and Secretary General will map the way forward for the global confederation.

On Monday, delegates elected Kirsty Robertson as the new Vice President of Caritas Internationalis. She has served as the CEO of Caritas Australia since 2019, and had previously held various positions at Caritas Australia including Pacific Programs Coordinator and Communications Group Leader. 

Speaking to Vatican News, Ms. Robertson said the Caritas family, hailing from over 160 countries throughout the world, has come together under a theme of “Building New Paths of Fraternity”.

“We came into this meeting with the understanding that we were here to build relationships, to rebuild relationships, but also to set ourselves a new course, a new path for the confederation,” Ms. Robertson said, remarking on how it has become increasingly clear during the 6-day meeting that all those present are “willing to chart a new way forward as a confederation.”

The 162 national Caritas member organisations of Caritas Internationalis, a global network that is known as “the helping hand of the Church” that responds to humanitarian concerns, emergencies and works for long-term development, are going through a period of reform after Pope Francis appointed a temporary administrator last November.

Ms. Robertson noted that on Sunday the organization’s new strategic framework was launched to highlight the “shared value of the mission” of the work Caritas Internationalis does.

“Our members are all committed to working together to find new ways of building fraternity and new ways of seeking to serve the world’s poorest people,” she said.

New challenges?

Asked what she expects the main challenges on the way forward to be, the new Vice President of Caritas said that, as always, “the challenges facing Caritas Internationalis are the challenges that face the world’s poorest people.”

Right now, she observed, “we’re looking at conflicts across Ukraine, parts of the Middle East, Afghanistan, the challenges around Climate Change and how that’s affecting the communities we serve in Oceania and in Africa and many other crises that exist.”

“The challenges of Caritas Internationalis are not necessarily about us!”

“As an organisation,” Ms. Robertson continued, “we want to keep the focus on the people that we serve today.”

Joy for the new President

Kirsty Robertson expressed joy for the election of Archbishop Tarcisius Kikuchi as the new President of Caritas Internationalis, adding that the election process proved extremely clean, transparent and fair.

“That’s what the members of the confederation had hoped for.”

Delegates rang out their support, she concluded, in a resounding applause when the Archbishop of Tokyo was announced President, underscoring the support that he has from all Caritas members.

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