Pope Francis on Tuesday ousted the leadership of the Vatican’s international charity Caritas Internationalis and appointed a temporary leadership after an external review revealed management and morale problems at its headquarters.
A Vatican statement said the review found no evidence of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety. But he said other problems emerged, with “real shortcomings” seen in management, “seriously damaging team spirit and staff morale”.
Ousted Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Aloysius John, who was elected in a disputed vote in 2019, along with the leadership and governance team. The changes do not affect the leadership of any of the 162 national development and relief organizations that make up the global Caritas confederation.
Caritas Internationalis is one of the main charitable organizations of the Holy See and acts as a global umbrella for national and regional federations which operate in more than 200 countries. The Rome-based secretariat reported revenues of around 5.1 million euros ($5.2 million) in 2020 and expenses of 4.4 million euros, according to the annual report.
John, of Indian origin, had been brought into the leadership structure of Caritas Internationalis as head of development in 2013 by its former secretary general, Michèle Roy, of the French Caritas federation, known as Secours Catholique. At the end of Roy’s term, John ran for General Secretary and won after other initial candidates withdrew and after initially failing to win a majority of votes.
A former Caritas employee who cooperated with the external reviewers said he recounted instances of intimidation and incompetence under John, particularly in dealing with the fallout from a sex abuse scandal in Caritas operations in the Republic Central African. The former employee spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisals.
In late 2019, in response to a CNN investigation, Roy admitted to knowing in 2017 of pedophilia concerns about Bangui Caritas’ director of operations, but left it to the priest’s immediate superiors to investigate. They did not, and CNN identified at least two child victims while the priest was in the country.
John did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Francis appointed temporary administrator of Caritas Internationalis Pier Francesco Pinelli, an organizational consultant who had participated in the external review and will lead the organization until new elections for a general secretary are held in 2023. The current advocacy officer, Maria Amparo Alonso Escobar, remains and Francis has appointed a Jesuit priest to help with the “personal and spiritual accompaniment of the staff”.
The current president of Caritas, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who heads the Vatican’s evangelization department, will stay on to work under the new temporary administrators, the statement said.
Pinelli had participated in a 2021 assessment of the Vatican’s development office, which resulted in a reshuffle of the leadership team and the appointment of Cardinal Michael Czerny, a top Francis ally, as prefect. Caritas Internationalis is part of the development office.
In a statement on Tuesday, the development office said the Caritas review was undertaken to assess “the alignment of the secretariat office with the Catholic values of human dignity and respect for each person”.
Czerny said the changes should allow Caritas to rise to the challenges of serving “the little ones and those who suffer”, but also to ensure that it does so by ensuring that the organization “shows itself to be height of its mission”.
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