Saturday, January 01, 2011

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez: Think Beyond Charity and Enter the Gospel Realm of Justice

Almost 10 years ago, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of the Diocese of Las Cruces was invited to speak to a gathering of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA) in Salt Lake City. 

In his address, Bishop Ramirez emphasized that philantropy is more than just charity; there must be an element of justice in all our actions to address poverty. The words ring just as true at the start of 2011 as they did in June 2001. 

By the way, FADICA--a nonprofit association of 47 organizations working to strengthen and promote Catholic philanthropy--conferred upon Bishop Ramirez its Distinguished Catholic Leadership Award in October 2010, "for his vision in shepherding with great wisdom and superb stewardship a home mission diocese of the United States."

Here are some excerpts of the speech that Bishop Ramirez gave to FADICA participants in June 2001:
Americans are among the most generous in the world when it comes to giving to charity; it is with issues having to do with the roots of poverty where we balk.

How are we going to educate our people to think beyond charity and enter the Gospel realm of justice? This means giving attention to the economic structures which have a negative impact on the situation of the poor.

As I explained at the beginning of this paper, some are poor because they are kept poor through oppression and unjust situations.

The church cannot do it alone, neither can the government. Even groups of strong foundations, such as FADICA, cannot do it alone. The corporate world, even those who operate with a social conscience - and many do - cannot, by themselves, do it alone. It will take a joint effort of all of us together  but we would have at least done our best to relate with the final message of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew:

"The sheep he will place on his right hand, the goats on his left. The King will say to those on his right: ‘Come. You have my Father's blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me.... I assure you as often as you did it for one of my least brothers (and sisters), you did it for me.'" (Mt. 25:33-40)
-Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, Diocese of Las Cruces, N.M..
(Excerpts from "Poverty as a Spiritual Challenge: Do Catholics know the Face of the Poor?" FADICA Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah June 1, 2001)

*The illustration at the top is from a brochure created for a conference cosponsored by the New Mexico Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry (now Lutheran Adovcachy Ministry) and Bread for the World New Mexico in September 1994.  The brochure was designed by Paul and Laura Richard.

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