ROME – The Pope John Paul II opened the 25th plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council with a challenge to provide spiritual as well as physical relief to the needy.
"The Church is at the service of man and his varied and concrete material and spiritual needs," John Paul told the delegates.
However, the Church "is not limited to satisfying the material expectations of those in difficulty," he continued. "[It] goes out to meet the most hidden existential questions, even when they are not clearly expressed."
The council, which administers papal charity, will attend the two-day consultation, entitled, “The Dimension of Religion in Charitable Activity” through Saturday.
Thus the Church "does not exhaust its charitable action in constructing structures and charitable works," the Pope said. With "simplicity and pastoral prudence it does not hesitate to witness Christ, who reveals the face of God the Father, tender and merciful."
In fact, "all of us are seeking satisfactory answers to the great questions of life. We Christians know that the true and satisfactory answer to many anxieties of the human heart is found only in Jesus," continued John Paul.
Herein lies "the significance and evangelical value of the diaconate of charity, which the Church exercises through its beneficent institutions and that is seen in the dedication of so many persons," he said.
The pontiff then encouraged the council to follow in the footsteps of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) in providing a service of love toward God and man.
Your greatest task, said John Paul, is “to communicate to the world the love" that the Church has received from Christ, in order to be a "support for many brothers and sisters in difficulty.”
The council, entitled, “Cor Unum,” was established by Pope Paul VI in 1971 through the “Amoris Officio” letter. The committee acts as the Pontiff’s executive instrument for carrying out humanitarian initiatives and efforts throughout the world. Part of the Cor Unum’s mission, according to its statement, is “to express the Catholic Church's concern for the needy, in order to foster human fraternity and express the charity of Christ."