Pope Francis on Tuesday removed the whole leadership of Caritas Internationalis—the Vatican-based Catholic charity network led by Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle—after outside experts highlighted management and procedural “deficiencies.”
Announced in a Vatican statement, the surprise move unseats the existing leadership, of which Tagle is president.
The Pope also appointed a temporary administrator in Pier Francesco Pinelli, a former renewable energy executive and Bain consultant trained by the Jesuits.
Despite his removal from office, Tagle will continue to assist Pinelli, he said on Tuesday during a plenary meeting in Rome.
The ousters were not due to sexual abuse and financial management, Tagle said, as he read the Pope’s decree, Vatican News reported.
It follows a review of the “workplace environment” of CI, a federation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social organizations operating across 200 countries, by a panel of independent experts commissioned by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD).
“I would like to assure you that this is not, this is not, this is not about sexual harassment or sexual abuse. This is not about, again, mismanagement of money … the decree clearly stated the intention,” Tagle added.
In a formal decree, Francis noted Caritas’ role in helping him in his “ministry towards the poorest and most needy”, but said its regulatory framework needed reviewing.
Caritas Internationalis had an income of more than five million euros ($5.13 million) in 2020, according to its annual report, almost half from membership fees and donations from member organizations, and the rest contributions from external donors.
The Vatican said financial matters “have been well-handled and fundraising goals regularly achieved” but the aim now was to “improve its management norms and procedures”.
The Filipino prelate said: “This is a call for walking humbly with God and a process of discernment, confronting our unfreedoms and following the spirit of freedom, [and] at the same time, the walking together of different cultures in their unique expressions of humanity.”
“No evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety, but other important themes and areas for urgent attention emerged from the panel’s work,” the DPIHD said in a statement.
“Real deficiencies were noted in management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team spirit and staff morale.”
Dicastery chief Cardinal Michael Czerny added that in recent years, the needs of those served by Caritas had risen “markedly, and it is imperative that Caritas Internationalis be well prepared to meet these challenges.”
Among Pinelli’s jobs will be leading preparations for the next general assembly of all of Caritas’ member organizations planned for May 2023, when a president, general secretary, and treasurer will be elected.
The DPIHD said there would be “no impact on the functioning of member organizations and the services of charity and solidarity they provide around the world.”
“On the contrary, it will serve to strengthen such service,” it said.
One staffer said in reports that cases of verbal abuse, favoritism, and general human resources mismanagement had led some staff to leave.