Cardinal Arinze says evangelization needs acts of charity

Cardinal Francis Arinze said Sept. 18 that evangelization is at the center of the Church's mission and that acts of charity are an indispensable part of this effort.

"If the Church did not evangelize, it would end up in the Vatican Museum," he told the audience.

The cardinal delivered his remarks to a standing room-only crowd at Bonfils Hall on the grounds of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in Denver, Colo. The talk was part of the Archbishop's Lecture Series, a Denver tradition instituted by its former archbishop, Charles J. Chaput, now of Philadelphia.

Cardinal Arinze is originally from Nigeria, and served as head of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship from 2002 to 2008.

The cardinal explained to CNA that his message for the talk was that charity is essential for evangelization because "charity is the mother of all the virtues. Without charity all the others fall away."

Charity, he added, "orders all the others" (virtues) and that it is "preceding the Gospel" in the work of evangelization.

Cardinal Arinze said that evangelization, announcing the good news of salvation in Christ to every human person, is the reason the Church exists.

Quoting Paul VI's apostolic exhortation "Evangelii nuntiandi," he said, "Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize."

And when it comes to defining charity, the cardinal said it is preaching the truth. Christ forgave sins, restoring people to God's peace and the truth "even before healing their bodily ailments," he noted.

Yet the poor were always at the forefront of Jesus' consideration in his ministry. When he sent his disciples on their "trial run evangelizing tour," Jesus told them to pay attention to those who needed healing, external and internal, body and soul.

Cardinal Arinze reminded the audience that charity to the poor is not merely caring for bodily necessities. "Spiritual needs have priority" he said, adding that the spiritual works of mercy -- such as instructing the ignorant and comforting the afflicted -- are charity of a "higher order."

"Those who share the truths of our Catholic faith … these are exercising charity of a very high degree. May God bless those who share the bread of the Gospel."

Cardinal Arinze also insisted that faith must be expressed in works. He said that attending Latin High Mass isn't enough when the poor are cold and hungry, and that Mother Teresa didn't give fundamental theology lectures.

The cardinal was president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue for 18 years, and was asked about charity and other religions. He said he "encouraged collaboration" between Christians and those of other faiths in charitable works because there "isn't Christian corruption or Muslim drought."

Cardinal Arinze finished his talk by reiterating the necessity of faith expressing itself in charitable works. The Blessed Virgin "knew it wasn't enough just to conceive" Jesus – she immediately went to visit Elizabeth, he recalled.

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