Pope Francis & Atheists & Catholic Charities

(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis’ recent talk about the how the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all – including atheists struck a chord with the world – and with me in a particular way.    People often have asked me if Catholic Charities helps “non-Catholics.” At first this bothered me because Catholic Charities for as long as I can remember and much beyond has always helped people regardless of their religion.  I was a little frustrated that after all these years people would still ask.  But then I realized we must not have been doing a good enough job in making sure people knew this fact.  So now in all material we put out about Catholic Charities, we always say: “Helping Non-Catholics and Catholics alike.”  Every person is made in the image of God.  And, in addition, we go out of our way to work with groups and organizations of all religions and no religions to further the common good and help those needing a helping hand.

Maybe Pope Francis was getting a little frustrated that some people didn’t realize that Jesus had come to save them – even if they weren’t Catholics or even Christians.   I have included a few excerpts below and the link to the Pope’s full message:

 “The Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”…
But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him….

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

Read the Pope’s full message on en.radiovaticana.va 

More on Bangladesh

Photo - Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Photo – Tomas Munita for The New York Times

When I visited my family earlier this week for Christmas, the millenniums and the baby boomers were all quite inquisitive about my recent trip to Bangladesh.  I showed them my cell phone pictures of the workers who were disabled by the garment factory tragedies of the last year.  Immediately, they wanted to know about the conditions in the factories there.  Their initial reaction – without even the slightest goading by me – was outrage by the unsafe conditions that led to the two recent tragedies.

They didn’t know until a little later that their Christmas gifts would further raise their awareness about the garment industry in Bangladesh – and the choice that American consumers can make to support better working conditions.  I gave them gift cards to H&M – one of the brands that has signed onto the ACCORD for better building and safety standards in the 5,000 factories in Bangladesh.

Recently, the situation there has gotten more publicity.  See the latest article from the New York Times. 

Hopefully awareness continues to be raised of the need to improve conditions for more than 3 million garment workers in Bangladesh.

Faith, Dignity and Solidarity: Values at the Heart of Catholic Charities


131218-1006At the 68th Annual Cardinal Christmas Luncheon that Catholic Charities and Our Ladies of Charity hosted this week, I had the opportunity to reflect on how this event that helps  support the services we provide to those in need  represents values that are at the heart of Catholic Charities.

They include the Christian faith that motivates our work, the dignity of each individual regardless of religion and the solidarity that bridges differences for the sake of doing good.”

Let me say a few words about each:

Our Catholic Christian Faith:  Unabashedly and explicitly we name this a Christmas luncheon  celebrating the coming birth of our savior, Jesus Christ,  We recognize how much his saving power and the message of his gospel inspires our Catholic charitable work and continues  his saving presence for others in the world until He comes again.

Human Dignity and Human Potential: In the mystery of Christmas – and the word made flesh – we celebrate that our humanity made from the very first moment of creation in the image of God is now revealed as capable of  embracing and holding the Divine.  Therefore each human person – of whatever religion – is worthy of dignity, respect, caring and concern, especially the most vulnerable and poor.  Together we help in a way that creates hope, a hope that every human person might live in the dignity that is every person’s birthright.

Human Solidarity: We believe in a solidarity that bridges, partners and pulls people together to help those in need.  Together we build a society that is more compassionate and just. We honor “angels” rather than out “wayward demons.” We celebrate the generosity of St. Nicholas rather than pointing out the stinginess of “Scrooges.”

And so we celebrate that we have individuals – angels and St. Nicholas’s from business, from media, from government, from different religions, from schools and from our Catholic Charities agencies.  And we call all of us together to lend our talents, resources and perspectives to the simple, necessary and profound mission of ensuring that every person made in the image of God has basic human necessities.

In solidarity we seek to provide help to ensure that children are protected and nurtured, that the hungry fed and those without homes sheltered, that families are strengthened, that those with emotional and physical challenges are supported and that the immigrant and refugee are  welcomed and integrated into their new homes.”

Thank you for by joining in  solidarity with us at Catholic Charities so that together we  promote the dignity of all individuals both now during the Christmas season and throughout the year.

My Trip to Bangladesh Continues to Resonate as We Approach Christmas

Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Last month, I was invited to visit garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh with a delegation of New Yorkers that included Tom DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller, and Stuart Appelbaum, the head of the RWDSU (Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.)

More than 1,100 workers’ lives were lost in the collapse of Rana Plaza nearly eight months ago, making it the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry.

In a front-page story published just yesterday in The New York Timesreporter Jim Yardley wrote how “inside the single room he shares with his wife and young child, Hasan Mahmud Forkan does not sleep easily. Some nights he hears the screams of the garment workers he tried to rescue from the wreckage of the RanaPlaza factory building. Or he dreams the bed itself is collapsing, sucking him down into a bottomless void.

The delegation I traveled with met with surviving workers of the Rana Plaza  factory collapse with experiences similar to those of Mr. Forkan as well as with family members of those who perished,  labor leaders and retailers tied to the factory.

As I told a Catholic New York reporter, our delegation’s trip was intended to meet with the various sectors involved in the garment industry, the workers themselves, organizers, brand names and government officials to learn about what was going on.  RanaPlaza survivors and family members of the workers killed had a number of concerns including reforming building and work space conditions along with receiving adequate compensation for the disabilities and loss of life caused by the disasters along from the disaster.

Those living after the collapse still struggle to make ends meet. Even though the Bangladeshi government, local associations and overseas retailers provided short-term compensation to survivors and loved ones, many still require financial support.

Read more about the survivors’ stories featured in The New York Times.

Tune in to JustLove to Hear About the Life of Nelson Mandela Plus News on Alleviating World Hunger


Left to Right: Tim Wall and Anthony Egan

On this week’s show, Monsignor Sullivan speaks with Anthony Egan SJ of South Africa’s University of Pretoria about the life of Nelson Mandela and importance he plays throughout the world. Also on the show is development expert Tim Wall who returns to the program to speak about world hunger and the positive progress being made in this area.

Listen to JustLove on Saturday at 10am EST on SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio on The Catholic Channel 129.

Tune in to This Week’s JustLove Show

Adam English_georgehorton

Left to Right: George Horton, Adam English

On this week’s show Monsignor Sullivan speaks with JustLove guest host George Horton about his recent fact finding trip in Bangladesh to learn more about the country’s garment industry. Also on the show is Adam C. English, author of “The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus” who joins the show to talk about the real St. Nicholas.

Listen to JustLove on Saturday at 10am EST on SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio on The Catholic Channel 129.