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"Love -caritas- will always be necessary, even in the most just society. There is simply no state, regardless how just, that makes the service of love superfluous (…)
Suffering that requires consolation and aid will always exist. There will always be loneliness. Situations of material needs in which an aid that shows a concrete love will always appear"
. Of the Encyclical letter "Deus Caritas est" of H.H. Benedict XVI.

At first, I want to thank the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC) the opportunity of reaching out to the participants of the 22nd Congress some aspects of the actions carried out by Caritas.

Caritas, a confederation that works in 200 countries world-wide, has been working as an organization for more than 50 years, both on a local level, fighting poverty and exclusion, as on a worldwide level, canalizing the love and solidarity of the Christian communities and society in general, in emergencies and catastrophes that strike our planet periodically.

Caritas, faithful to the origin of its name, shows the love of the Christian community towards the poorest and underprivileged in each diocese, in each country. And it does so at an equality level, because love towards the underprivileged implies the recognition of their abilities and capacities. For this reason, Caritas guards and works so that the poor leave their poverty behind and have an independent life as far as possible. So that they are active in the society that they live in. A frequently unequal and unjust society.

Caritas is also a bridge that can canalize the aid of those that have the necessary, and more, towards those who lack the most elementary. And the most elementary is not always a synonym of economic poverty. Because Caritas also finds in its daily work people that live their problems in solitude, discouraged people as a consequence of the accumulation of adverse circumstances that they must overcome and often, with a low self-esteem. Professionals and volunteers involve themselves in this task on a day by day basis.

The welcome in Barcelona of Caritas

The origin can be found in the Diocese Charity Secretaryship(1944) run by monsignor Albert Bonet and the Blessed Dr. Pere Tarrés, in the heat of the Spanish post-war period. The present Caritas follows its historical beginnings, when it was created to give an effective answer to the problem of its time.

Today, like in the past, Caritas Diocesana of Barcelona welcomes and opens its doors to all the people who need it. Without any kind of distinction, whether race, belief or culture. The welcoming of Caritas has a series of characteristics that have been giving its social action a pedagogical dimension, of perseverance in the support to people, of adaptation to their rhythm and capacity, as wells as of supporting their material needs when required. The Economic Aid Service of Caritas Barcelona attended during 2005 a total of 1780 people who presented serious problems related to accomodation, 1.177 people that required aid with food supply, and 208 people with needs of help for medicine, odontolgy, glasses and hearing aid purchase. The economic total of these direct aids reached the figure of 777,175 Euro.

Caritas is coordinated together with other public and private organizations with the objective of not duplicating services to the population. Certainly, Caritas, that is financed in an 80% through private donations (of Christian communities, donors and members) cannot take care of all the needs that it detects in its daily social action, but always takes emergent poverty situations in consideration and priorizes its social action following this criteria.

The commitment of Caritas in its fight against poverty and its experience thanks to the daily contact with some of the most unprotected social sectors over the years, includes necessarily the information and the social denunciation trough annual and specific reports that are released to the society through the mass media.

Prevention of exclusion

Caritas’ ascertainment is that social exclusion reproduces itself if no appropriate and effective action is carried out. For almost 20 years, the Caritas Diocesana of Barcelona has been developing a program of aid to young women (some adolescents) with children, from new born to three years of age, and in different geographical areas.

It’s about providing daily space to mothers, where they learn to take care of children, as well express their doubts and fears in this so decisive stage for the development of the child. In most of these situations there is no familiar support nor the necessary conditions in their houses. An interdisciplinary team, with family workers, psychologists (weekly) and educators, are in charge of the day by day, always in coordination with the medical and sanitary personnel of the basic Health Areas, in aspects involved with vaccinations calendar and paediatric follow-up of the child.

To take care of mental health

In order to try to improve the social and emotional welfare of the attended people, Caritas of Barcelona started up in 1991 the Psychological Help Cabinet (GAOP). Thus a team of psychologists offers help and a follow-up to those who require it and who lack of social and economic resources. During the last year (2005), of a total of 245 people attended by GAOP, 73% were women, of which 57% were between 25 and 45 years old. 30%, more than 45 years old and 13% from 5 to 19 years. Of the total of attended people, 56% were immigrant and 44% native population. Adverse factors, among them the ones related to the irregular situation of the immigrant population, are of various different types: precarious labour situation, family ruptures, the migratory duel, the overcrowding of flats. In other words, the lack of the most essential to live, make difficult – if not complete impossible- the integration of immigrants and, in general, the development of a healthy life. Caritas states that the continued suffering decreases the capacity of reaction of the people and favours a series of disorders that, without an effective treatment, can end in pathologies.

In many other areas the Caritas diocesena of Barcelona, following the values of all the social actions carried out by the Caritas Network, does daily and preventive social work: with the elderly with minimum income and that live alone or attended by relatives that are overflowed by the situation; with the young that still haven’t acquired the abilities to work; with the AIDS patients and the drug-dependent that want to quit drugs; with men and women with health problems, unemployment, lack of basic resources.

All this is for Caritas the new commandment of Love. And its reason for being.

Jordi Roglà de Leuw
Director of the Caritas diocesana of Barcelona

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