Caritas Internationalis

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Caritas Internationalis
Founded9 November 1951
FounderLorenz Werthmann
FocusHumanitarian aid, International development and social service
Area served
Key people
Pier Francesco Pinelli, Temporary Administrator

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162[1] Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.

Collectively and individually, their missions are to work to build a better world, especially for the poor and oppressed.[2] The first Caritas organization was established by Lorenz Werthmann on 9 November 1897 in Freiburg (headquarters for Germany).[3] Other national Caritas organizations were soon formed in Switzerland (1901) and the United States (Catholic Charities, 1910).


In July 1924, during the international Eucharistic Congress in Amsterdam, 60 delegates from 22 countries formed a conference, with headquarters at Caritas Switzerland in Luzern. In 1928, the conference became known as Caritas Catholica. The delegates met every two years until the outbreak of the Second World War when all activities came to a standstill. Work resumed in 1947, with the approval of the Secretariat of State, and two conferences were convened in Luzern to help coordinate efforts and collaboration.

Caritas was given a further endorsement when the Secretariat of State entrusted it with the official representation of all welfare organizations at the international level, especially at the United Nations. The Holy Year in 1950 saw the beginning of a union of Caritas organizations. Following a suggestion by Monsignor Montini, then Substitute Secretary of State, and later Pope Paul VI, a study week, with participants from 22 countries, was held in Rome to examine the problems of Christian Caritas work. As a result, the decision was made to set up an international conference of Roman Catholic charities.

In December 1951, upon approval of the statutes by the Holy See, the first constitutive General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis took place. Founding members came from Caritas organizations in 13 countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. The Church describes Caritas as its official voice “in relation to its teachings in the area of charity work”.[4]

In 1954, the Confederation changed its name to Caritas Internationalis to reflect the international presence of Caritas members on every continent.[4] As of 2015, the Confederation has 164 members working in over 200 countries and territories. Its General Secretariat is located in the Palazzo San Callisto, Vatican City. The current president is Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and the Secretary General is Aloysius John.[5]

After World War Two, Caritas was implicated in assisting Franz Stangl, a supervisor at the Hartheim Euthanasia Centre which was the early Nazi euthanasia programme responsible for the deaths of over 70,000 mentally ill or physically deformed people in Germany, in his escape to Syria. After Stangl made his way to Rome from Linz, the Caritas relief agency provided him with a Red Cross passport and a boat ticket to Syria.[6]

Caritas national and regional agencies[edit]

The full membership list of Caritas organizations includes:


Including 45 national agencies in Sub-Saharan Africa:

  • Algeria – Caritas Algérie. The Catholic Church in Algeria announced on September 27, 2022, the unprecedented closure of Caritas. Open since 1962, it will cease its activities from October 1.[7]
  • Chad – SECADEV (Caritas Chad) has partnered with the Canadian bishops' Development and Peace program to provide essential aid for Sudanese refugees in Chad, including access to water, financing for small businesses and agricultural projects.[8]
  • Egypt - Caritas Egypt (part of a Middle East and Africa (MENA) regional agency), founded and recognised by the Egyptian government in 1967.[9]
  • Kenya – Caritas Nairobi - operated by the Archdiocese of Nairobi
  • Nigeria – Caritas Nigeria claims to work with local diocesan Caritas to bring relief to displaced families in the North East region displaced because of attacks by Boko Haram.[10]
  • Uganda – Caritas Uganda (founded in 1970)[11]


The Caritas House in Caine Road, Mid-levels, Hong Kong

24 national agencies including:


Nursery home of the German Caritas

Caritas Europa with 48 national agencies including:

St. Nicholas Orphanage, established by Caritas in Novosibirsk, Russia

North America, Central America and the Caribbean[edit]


Six regional agencies, including:

  • Australia – Caritas Australia claims involvement in peacebuilding and reconciliation programs in Brazil, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Papua New Guinea and elsewhere.[21]
  • New Zealand – Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Papua New Guinea – Caritas PNG
  • Caritas Samoa claims to give assistance to low income families, provides capacity-building initiatives for women, help with the improvement of rural waters supplies, and provides assistance to address needs caused by natural disasters.[1]

South America[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Caritas means charity – In Samoan it means Alofa" Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine, Samoa Observer, 13 July 2013.
  2. ^ Caritas Internationalis Archived 9 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "The History of Caritas in Germany". Caritas Deutschland. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b "History - Caritas Internationalis". Caritas Internationalis. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  5. ^ "Caritas Internationalis elects Michel Roy as new Secretary General". Catholic World Report. 26 May 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  6. ^ Levy, Alan (2006) [1993]. Nazi Hunter: The Wiesenthal File (Revised 2002 ed.). London: Constable & Robinson. ISBN 978-1-84119-607-7.
  7. ^ Henning, Christophe; Eblotié, Guy Aimé (2022-09-28). "En Algérie, les autorités ordonnent la fermeture de la Caritas". La Croix (in French). ISSN 0242-6056. Archived from the original on 2022-09-28. Retrieved 2022-09-28.
  8. ^ "Sudan/Darfur". Development and Peace. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  9. ^ Caritas Egypt, accessed 7 June 2022
  10. ^ "Boko Haram threatens Nigeria's Home of Peace - Caritas Internationalis". Caritas Internationalis. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  11. ^ "Caritas Uganda". Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  12. ^ "Caritas India sees surge in local donors". Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  13. ^ "Caritas". Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Caritas Mongolia". Archived from the original on 2022-01-24.
  15. ^ "NASSA/Caritas Philippines - About Us". Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  16. ^ "Caritas Manila - History". Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Caritas Jordan Humanitarian Respond towards Syrian Refugees in Jordan". Archived from the original on 4 April 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Temperature drop in Lebanon leaving Syrian refugees out in cold - Caritas Internationalis". Caritas Internationalis. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  19. ^ Caritas Ukraine, Caritas in Ukraine, accessed 5 June 2022
  20. ^ "Caritas Canada". Development and Peace. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  21. ^ "Peacebuilding and reconciliation, Caritas Australia; accessed 19 November 2016.

External links[edit]