VATICAN CITY, May 2, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a carefully worded diplomatic document, the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s highest authority under the pope himself, announced this afternoon that Caritas International, is receiving a new set of rules and statutes which place direct governance in the hands of the Vatican. Today, all was smiles for the cameras, but relations between the Holy See and Caritas, the umbrella organisation that oversees the scandal-plagued Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), have been strained for some time.

The Cardinal President of Caritas, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, received the new Statutes and Rules and Bertone’s General Decree at a morning meeting with Vatican officials. The governing structures of Caritas Internationalis will come under direct control and supervision of Vatican officials, who will work to ensure that the organisation’s works and programmes are in accord with Catholic moral and social teaching.

The Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, wrote that Caritas “carries out with exemplary professionalism and competence” its charitable works around the world. The organisation’s “public nature” and its “participation in the Holy Father’s munus pastorale (pastoral office) require it at all times, not least in its documents, to express transparently the charity and solicitude of the Church”.

Last year, citing the need to strengthen the organization’s “Catholic identity,” the Vatican took the highly unusual step of blocking Caritas secretary general Lesley-Anne Knight from running for a second four-year term. Apparently at issue was the desire of Knight to distance the organisation from the Holy See, saying the association could hurt fundraising. At the time she was dismissed, Vatican officials who asked to remain anonymous, said that there are serious concerns over the moral drift away from Catholic teaching of several charitable organisations associated with various national bishops’ conferences.

More rumblings were heard in May last year, when the Vatican cancelled a speech sponsored by Caritas by the radical English Dominican priest, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, who has publicly promoted ideas at odds with Church teaching on homosexuality.

In his recent encyclical, Caritas et Veritate, Pope Benedict said that material aid to human development cannot be separated from the demands of truth: “Only in charity, illumined by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value.” In several recent decisions, Pope Benedict is moving to reform other groups with official ties to the Catholic Church who have become, in the eyes of the Vatican, overly secularised.

Caritas, Bertone wrote, “carries out its specific task in the name of the Church,” which means that it must be run according to the moral and social teaching of the Catholic Church.

One major change is that under the new statutes, “in order to underline the close bond between the organization in question and the Successor of Peter as well as the Pope’s particular attention towards it,” requires that at least three members of the Executive Board be direct papal appointments. Moreover, a “Support Commission” is to be established whose role will be to “ensure that it follows the new norms”.

Bertone noted that the impetus for the changes comes directly from Pope Benedict, who “gave precise instructions” on the drafting of the new governing statutes.

The role of the Holy See in Caritas’s structures, is to exercise “vigilance in order that both its humanitarian and charitable action and the content of the documents that it disseminates may be in harmony with the Apostolic See and with the Church’s Magisterium.” To ensure this, “the general competences of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for doctrinal oversight obviously remain in force.”

He notes that the new rules remind Caritas that “significant canonical and Vatican legislation is binding upon those who are employed in entities situated within Vatican City and institutionally linked to the Holy See”.

Robert Cardinal Sarah, the head of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, that oversees the Church’s charitable works and who will now have oversight of Caritas, said, “The Pontifical Council promotes the identity and ecclesial spirit within the Confederation.”

“In particular, it must ensure that the activities of its members -coordinated internationally - are carried out in collaboration and in communion with the local Churches, including with the involvement of their pastors.”

Cor Unum has “the duty to follow the activities of Caritas to ensure that its activities and the documents it puts out are in full harmony with the Church magisterium.”

Caritas a confederation of 164 of the Catholic Church’s relief aid, economic development and social service organisations, is one of the largest charities in the world, operating in over 200 countries and territories around the world. 24 million people around the world at any given moment, employing a total of one million people, including 600,000 volunteers.