(Homeless Egyptian children enjoy a meal in Kafr El Sisi Center for Children at Risk in the Giza neighbourhood of Cairo March 12, 2007. The street children are fed, taught vocational skills, given health care and counselled at the center run by Caritas/Goran Tomasevic)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Abigail Frymann is Online Editor of the British Catholic weekly The Tablet, where this first appeared.

By Abigail Frymann

How Catholic should a Catholic charity be? The confederation of Catholic charities Caritas Internationalis  elected a new secretary general, Michel Roy, last week after the re-appointment of the previous incumbent, Lesley-Anne Knight, was blocked, apparently because the Vatican wanted a stronger Catholic identity.

When I wrote for one Protestant charity we would have to check we had spelled out some reference to the spiritual dimension of its work so that supporters knew they weren’t reading about a secular agency. Someone at another charity I have worked with, this time Catholic, admitted that they highlighted their Catholic roots for one audience and played them down for another.

At HIV/Aids conferences, Christian charities are thrown in together with no end of charities that are pro-condom, pro-choice, pro-all sorts of methods they wouldn’t choose to adopt. They have to defend their beliefs in, for example, advocating abstinence or working to reduce the stigma of the disease and convince others that these are intelligent, viable and compassionate responses. And as Christians who carry the hope of the Gospel, there is on the face of it a perversity in not sharing something of that treasure with people who are in need and ask about it.