Rome (AsiaNews) - Representing a Mediterranean island that is part of the European Union, but that is just a few kilometers from the Middle East, for Caritas Cyprus means "working to strengthen the peace process and contributing to building a culture of forgiveness , peace and reconciliation". This is according to Mgr. Youssef Soueif, Maronite archbishop Cyprus and President of the Catholic organization. Along with delegates from all over the world, the archbishop is in Rome for the General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis (May 12 to 17 2015), during which the new leadership will be elected and strategies decided for the next four years.
Along with Card. Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, Msgr. Soueif is running for president of Caritas Internationalis, led over the past eight years by Card. Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga.
"The island of Cyprus - the prelate tells AsiaNews - is home to one of the first Christian communities, who now lives with Muslims, Greek-Catholic, Maronite, Latin Rite Catholics. It is an oasis of coexistence of so many families, giving Cyprus its identity and its mission. " Being divided de facto since 1974, after the occupation of the north by Turkey, the local Caritas has been constantly working to "develop a spirit of human reconciliation, forgiveness and peace."
EU membership has led to Cyprus to suffer the negative effects of the economic crisis. This underlines Msgr. Soueif, has led Caritas Cyprus to "promote initiatives to find employment opportunities for young people." A mission that "we believe it is essential for the whole world, because the unemployment rate is very high everywhere".
The horizon of Caritas Cyprus stretches far beyond its borders: " Caritas Internationalis – he explains – sees us as part of the Middle East. This makes us very sensitive to the problems of the region, especially the conflict and persecution that minority communities, Christian and non-Christian, are facing. Therefore, we concentrate on reception and assistance programs for these people, to offer the Middle East a place of understanding and dialogue”.
Currently this means working closely with migrants: "On the island there are many migrants from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Together with our partners we are building care facilities, to listen to them and accompany them in this difficult time. "
Over the last four years Msgr. Soueif was also a member of the representative council of Caritas Internationalis. The prelate says e has been "very grateful" for this experience, because "Charity is at the heart of the Church, it is an expression of the Church's mission to the poor. Pope Francis always speaks of his desire to see a 'poor Church for the poor', and we - with our plans – put this into practice. "
The theme of the General Assembly underway is " One Human Family, Caring for Creation." "The motto we chose – he explains to AsiaNews - has two meanings. First, that, although different in culture, we have to be united, as one human family. In light of this, to protect creation, you must start from the human being, because God created everything, but his first creation was the person. So we should take care of ourselves, our brothers and sisters, especially the marginalized, the poor, those far from the attention of society and political structures ".
However, he points out, "Caritas Internationalis promotes these values starting from a spiritual experience. Caritas is the Church and when we say the Church, we mean prayer, meditation, Eucharist, Word of God. These are the fundamentals of our mission. Caritas is not an NGO, but belongs to the project of charity ".
According to Msgr. Soueif, from the international point of view the most urgent challenges are two: "Firstly, from the pastoral point of view, is to bring Caritas in every parish of the world. This association is not an NGO, but belongs to the charity project that all the faithful should feel in their heart and soul as their mission. The second is environmental: protect creation means saving the environment and work for a clean world. A polluted planet directly affects people's lives. "