Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vatican official defends Catholic Church's charity record

The Vatican's top official for charity services on Tuesday defended the Roman Catholic Church's aid activities while challenging international relief agencies to declare how much of their funds where used to pay staff salaries.

"The internal costs incurred by the church's aid agencies can be considered exemplary," Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, who heads the Pontifical Council Cor Unum for Human and Christian Development, said.

He was speaking at a Vatican news conference to present Pope Benedict XVI's Lenten message which urges the faithful to do more to help the poor.

According to Cordes, in 2006 the administrative costs of foundations presided by his body only accounted for 3 per cent of their budget. Other Roman Catholic charities, including Caritas and Aid to the Church In Need, recorded similarly low administrative costs, meaning that the bulk of their funds went directly to the needy, Cordes said.

"Certain things in the aid world need to be clarified," said Cordes, adding that some agencies, which he did not name, registered "surprisingly high" internal costs.

"This is not the context in which to focus on some of these organizations and on the salaries of their employees. But those who try and examine certain figures, often well hidden in their (the agencies') annual reports will be astonished by the internal costs," Cordes said.

"It would be helpful if when appeals are launched in the media in the wake of calamities like the tsunami, not just the bank account number where donations can be made, but also the percentage that the agencies keep for themselves, should be indicated," Cordes said.

He was apparently referring to the unprecedented worldwide relief efforts triggered by the destructive earthquakes and tidal waves that struck South-East Asia in December 2004.

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