On the occasion of the International Volunteer Day – volunteerism entails an intended provision of services to the public benefit and is not compensated – celebrated on December 5th, the Catholic Archbishop of Athens and Caritas Athens’ Chairman, Fr. Sevastianos Rossolatos states in his address:
“The United Nations Organization has mandated December 5th as International Volunteer Day. Volunteerism is consistent with our Christian values! On November 26th, Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Jesus told us: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew, 25: 40). Most naturally, Christ does not refer to paid work, but to volunteerism!
Pay attention how Pope Francis denounces, in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel”, no 88, those who lead a self-centered life, compromised and in-all comforts: “Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends, renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment, by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.”
In no 102, the Pope goes on stating on with volunteerism that he names “enlistment”:
“There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church. We can count on many lay persons, although still not nearly enough, who have a deeply-rooted sense of community and great fidelity to the tasks of charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith. At the same time, a clear awareness of this responsibility of the laity, grounded in their baptism and confirmation, does not appear in the same way in all places. In some cases, it is because lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities. In others, it is because in their Churches room has not been made for them to speak and to act, due to an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision-making.”
Pope Francis says that, in certain cases, Christians should be trained to adequately fulfill their mission, their volunteer work.
He also says that priests should primarily seek to educate laymen in the Gospel’s true essence and then ought to offer them the necessary freedom of initiative and mission, allowing them to participate in decisions and to be able to act, inspired by the Holy Spirit!
I conclude reminding of Saint Paul’s words:
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…” (1Cor.12,4,11).
We are all called upon to make good use of our gifts, given to us by the Holy Spirit, multiplying them, just like the one who received 5 gifts from the Lord and turned them into 10, not as the one who received one and kept it in order not to lose it!
Therefore, I congratulate all volunteers who minister in various ways to the service of our brothers and sisters. I particularly rejoice at hearing that volunteers have started to multiply! Thus, we make good use of our gifts to the benefit of both ourselves and our fellow human beings!”
Catholic Archbishop of Athens
Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Archdiocese of Rhodes