Vatican reportedly blocking re-election for head of its top international charity

Caritas Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight
Caritas Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight


The Catholic Church’s top international charity says the Vatican is preventing the group’s general secretary from seeking a second term in office.

In a Feb. 18 statement sent to CNA, the Rome-based Caritas Internationalis did not cite specific reasons for the Vatican’s action against Lesley-Anne Knight, whose four-year term will end in May. The Vatican has not commented on the case.

Ahead of the Caritas elections to be held in May, Knight submitted a request last month for the Vatican’s official seal of approval – called a nihil obstat (Latin for “nothing stands in the way”). The approval, which is required for all candidates, was denied.

Caritas officials held a meeting Feb. 5 to discuss the matter. Based on their “positive assessment of Mrs. Knight's work,” they decided to approach the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone about the decision.

Following “several” meetings between Vatican and Caritas officials, no resolution was reached.

“The Holy See acknowledges the professional work done and achievements of Mrs. Knight,” Caritas reported. “However, the Holy See wants a change in the way it works with Caritas and says this requires a change in the person of the Secretary-General.”

The British Catholic weekly, The Tablet reported Feb. 18 that Caritas' International president Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiago informed the agency’s directors of the decision in a Feb. 5 letter.

Cardinal Rodgrigues did not make public the reasons for the Vatican’s decision. He did say that Caritas officials had expressed “incomprehension at the reasons provided.”

One Caritas offical told The Tablet anonymously that Knight may have earned the Vatican’s displeasure because she has been “critical of the Vatican machine, has made no secret of it and has failed to be discreet.”

The same source praised Knight’s professionalism, saying she had restored fiscal order to Caritas’ Rome office.

Caritas said that it “deeply regrets” the Vatican’s decision.

Spokesman Patrick Nicholson told CNA on Feb. 21 that the organization does not foresee any further statements on the matter.

The Zimbabwe-native Knight has worked with a variety of international aid organizations including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the British-based relief agency Oxfam International. According to Caritas, she plans to complete her current term.

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