Michel Roy has been elected as the new general secretary of Caritas, the Catholic Church’s confederation of charitable and development agencies. The 56-year-old Frenchman was voted in by a majority of delegates at the organization’s general assembly in Rome.
“I’m very moved by this. I’d like to thank Lesley-Anne (Knight) for the work she’s done so far and also all of you for the work that you do for this network which reflects the hopes of the poor to build a better world,” Roy told delegates upon his election. He is currently the international lobbying and advocacy director for Secours Catholique, the French affiliate of Caritas.
Roy’s election comes at difficult time for Caritas. The organization has heard calls this week from various high-ranking cardinals urging it to improve its Catholic identity. These calls include Cardinal Robert Sarah, the head of the Vatican body responsible for Caritas, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.
In his opening address to the Caritas general assembly in Rome on May 22, Cardinal Sarah said, “A Caritas that wasn’t an ecclesial expression would have no meaning or existence. The Church cannot be considered as a partner of Catholic organizations. They are the organizations that take part in her mission.”
Later that day Cardinal Sarah told CNA that Caritas International’s new theme, “One Human Family – Zero Poverty,” which was unveiled at the same meeting, didn’t make sense because it’s unrealistic.
“I'm very hesitant to understand what zero poverty means, because Christ said we will always have the poor. So, what is a realistic way we can fight the poverty? But, it's difficult to absolutely cancel out poverty,” he said.
Cardinal Sarah also said that "the future will be very brilliant" for Caritas if it follows "the indication given by Pope Benedict XVI in 'Deus Caritas Est.'"
The next day, the liberal English Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe O.P., was dropped as a speaker at the conference and replaced by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical household.
Earlier this year, the Vatican also blocked Caritas’ current general secretary, Lesley-Anne Knight, from running for re-appointment to her post. The charity’s governance is also being revamped to give Vatican officials more control over its work.
Following his election on May 26, Michel Roy outlined his top four priorities for Caritas International.
“The challenges are put in the frame of the strategic plan that we have adopted here. It’s about the reinforcement of the humanitarian response of the Caritas network to the victims of man-made or natural disasters,” the new secretary general said.
His second objective is to promote and coordinate “integral human development,” so that the poor “can take their lives in their own hands and move forward.”
Roy listed his third priority as advocating for a “better and more just world.” He pointed to how the world is dominated by finances, and said, “we want to turn that world upside down and put the human being back at the center. The poor have to be our inspiration for that.”
Roy’s final goal is to improve the “coordination, access and communication among the members, so that each member participates in the promotion of the mission of the whole network.”
Roy has 30 years experience working for Secours Catholique in France. He began by working for the diocesan office in Paris in 1981. He is a father of two children and is an alumnus of the Sorbonne University in Paris, graduating in economics and oriental languages.
He’ll now serve alongside Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras, who was re-elected for a second term as Caritas Internationalis president.
Caritas International is a confederation of 164 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.