By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis has suspended the secretary-general and other top officers of Caritas Internationalis, appointing a temporary administrator to oversee improved management policies and to prepare for the election of new officers in May.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, whose second term as Caritas president was to end in May, also loses his position, although he is to assist the temporary administrator in preparing for the future by taking “special care of relations with the local churches and the member organizations,” said the papal decree published Nov. 22.
Caritas Internationalis is the umbrella organization for 162 official Catholic charities working in more than 200 countries; it includes the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA, the Canadian bishops’ Development and Peace and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
Pope Francis appointed Pier Francesco Pinelli, a business management consultant, to oversee the Vatican-based offices of the general secretariat.
In a statement also released Nov. 22, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which has some oversight responsibility for Caritas Internationalis, said the suspension of the officers “has no impact on the functioning of member organizations and the services of charity and solidarity they provide around the world; on the contrary, it will serve to strengthen such service.”
Earlier this year, the statement said, the dicastery “commissioned a review of the workplace environment of the CI General Secretariat and its alignment with Catholic values of human dignity and respect for each person.”
Pinelli and two psychologists conducted the review, which included interviewing current and past employees, the dicastery said.
“No evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety, but other important themes and areas for urgent attention emerged from the panel’s work,” the statement said. “Real deficiencies were noted in management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team-spirit and staff morale.”
The announcement of the pope’s provisions came while some 100 Caritas representatives from around the world were having a two-day meeting in Rome “to reflect on how to strengthen local leadership within the confederation and enhance fraternal cooperation among member organizations.”
According to Vatican News, Cardinal Tagle read the papal decree to the assembly and, while acknowledging the news could upset or confuse some people, he said they should be reassured knowing that it came after “a careful and independent study of the working environment of the secretariat and the governance exercised by the people and bodies in charge.”
The papal decree, he said, is “a call to walk humbly with God” and be open to a process of discernment, which includes acknowledging shortcomings.
Aloysius John, the secretary-general since 2019, was not present at the meeting, Vatican News said. John, a French citizen who was born in India, had been head of the organization’s section for institutional development and capacity building before his election as secretary-general.
Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Pinelli, the new administrator, also were present at the meeting, Vatican News reported.
Pope Francis, in his decree, said that Caritas Internationalis assists him and the bishops “in the exercise of their ministry to the poorest and most needy, participating in the management of humanitarian emergencies and collaborating in the spread of charity and justice in the world in the light of the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
“To improve the fulfillment of this mission,” the pope said, “it seems necessary to revise” the current regulations governing Caritas Internationalis, a task that Pinelli will guide.
Pinelli told Vatican News that his hope was “to initiate processes of reconciliation and improvement that can bear fruit in the long run for this association.”