The Vatican believes that its top aid agency, Caritas Internationalis, needs new leadership to build a stronger Catholic identity within the organization, said Cardinal Robert Sarah, who oversees the agency’s work as president as president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.
The Rome-based Caritas recently announced that the Vatican would not permit its current secretary general, Lesley-Anne Knight, to run for re-election to the position this May.
Cardinal Sarah explained the Vatican’s reasons during the course of a Feb. 22 press conference to release the Pope's annual Lenten message.
Cardinal Sarah told journalists, "we must recognize the work accomplished by Mrs. Knight, but for today's new challenges we need someone else." He added that it is "normal that for new challenges other people are chosen that the confederation presents."
Caritas officials issued a statement Feb. 18 expressing satisfaction with Knight’s performance and dismay at the Vatican’s decision.
Cardinal Sarah said, however:
"I think that each of us has limits. We can be competent in organizing but lack some qualities for coordinating work or for reinforcing the Catholic identity," Cardinal Sarah said concerning Knight’s qualifications.
The British Catholic weekly, The Tablet, reported Feb. 18 there had been communications miscues between then-president of "Cor Unum," German Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, and Caritas when organizing a response to the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
An unnamed official from one of the 165 Caritas locations worldwide told the Tablet that Knight ruffled feathers as she has been “critical of the Vatican machine, has made no secret of it and has failed to be discreet.”