Caritas- The Church serving the poor

The Early Church, following the example of Jesus Christ – was characterized by helping the downtrodden (collections for the poor and support widows). The Apostles as first stage of the sanctity of a religious order consecrated Deacons was devoted to charity. Within the community the system of care for the poor there circumstances and needs were already established. The early church included the principles and obligations to maintain the relatives and labor obligation to those who are to perform their work. Persons, who were not able to work and could not be supported the large family, were completely maintained by the church community. The community kept in mind not only the physical needs are, but also cared for the poor fellow’s soul. The aid was created from the believers donations. At the time of the Apostles, the uneaten food brought by the community to the Lord’s Supper was distributed to the poor the next week.

In ancient times, the Church has expanded the scope of care for the poor beyond the borders of the Roman Empire as well. The quarter of the Church’s goods, the so called “Quarta Pauperum” had to be given to charity purposes. Religious “places to patient care,” and ad-hoc inns to accommodate the travelers and the poor were established.

In the IVth century, the decree issued by Emperor Constantine the Great gave even more space and possibility for the Church’s poor care activities. The bishops had a duty to visit the prison, supervise over the treatment of prisoners and the distribution of grain to the widows. The first monastic communities were founded, and one of their main tasks was to taking care of the poor.

In the VIth century the parish communities emerged in the modern sense of, which became responsible for the poor maintenance of the ward. However it soon became apparent that the poor-relief requires more sophisticated organization. Beside Church along with the religious orders new guidelines were assigned to the poor service by the great saints as St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Hedwig. The monasteries became the centers of relief. The monks established hospitals, sick and poor houses, which were maintained from donations and from their own work. The various Knights Orders also assumed a role patronizing and patient care of the downtrodden.

In the XVIth century, the great guardian of orphans St. Philip Neri demonstrated with his exemplary way of life how to educate street children and to establish orphanages. The XVIIth century the most prominent Apostle of the poor’s was St. Vincent de Paul, who has set up a new system of poor nursing care in their homes instead of institutions made care of the poor and was part of the foundation of the order of the Sisters of Mercy.

During the centuries of new age also many new leader took the flag of Christian charity. The Italian St. John Bosco excelled in particular in the field of child education which is remaining the main task of the Salesians still today. is the of their fear of The Germans Blessed Adolph Kolping laid down the foundations of apprenticeship homes, the English Mary Ward raised the female education to a high level by establishing the Order of Religious Sisters. While Christianity has produced the pearls of charity, the state sought to learn from the Church everywhere, and compete in charitable activities. In the wake of the separation of the State and the Church, the State took over more activities which were previously carried by the church. Thus, the State built up his poor care system.  Infrastructural development of the state system and the narrowing of the material potential of the meant that the Church social institutions gradually weakened and completely belonged from the believers sacrifices.

Nevertheless, several examples showed that the ecclesiastical poor-house care can be able to create and innovate admirable results. Such an organization, the Caritas-Verband für das Katholische Freiburg Deutschland in Germany was founded in 1897 by Lorenz Werthmann, which was in 1916 nationwide recognized by the German Bishops’ Conference as Caritas. Werthmann’s aim was to design an organized framework for the volunteers from the well-intentioned people and make the aiding more effective. Lorenz Werthmann created a world-renowned symbol of Caritas, which symbolizes the flame of love. Basic objective formulated to Caritas was and still remains to help those in need age, gender and regardless of beliefs. Following the German example, national organizations from all over Europe were organized soon afterwards.

Caritas in Diocese of Subotica

After the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, in Subotica (which became a part of Yugoslavia), the Franciscans organized the poor care. They maintained soup-kitchens and collected handouts on their begging tours  to perform services for the poor. The money collected in so called St. Anthony’s money-boxes collected has been distributed among the poor. After the Second World War, the communist regime has deprived the churches in their lands and buildings and in a large part of the social care state-monopoly was exercised. Even the begging at the entrance of the churches was forbidden since the sixties. The parishes continued to assist through the so called St. Anthony’s money-boxes.

The Regulations and Rules of Procedure of parishes in Diocese of Subotica issued in 1970 foreseen inter alia, the establishment of a charitable division as well. It was the beginning of organized form of charitable activities in Diocese. Specialized charitable sections were established and began to operate in at the parishes.

Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia the European Caritas began to send food shipments to so called Small-Yugoslavia through Caritas by the Swiss Caritas in the delivery of food items to low-Yugoslavian Caritas, which was founded by the bishops and some laymen. The aid shipments arriving to Belgrade were allocated to the Dioceses where the locally organized Caritas Groups distributed them further to the needy. The shipments of food were later combined by hygiene agents and with blankets. During these sessions official Caritas centers were organized within the Diocese of Subotica in Subotica and Novi Sad. Afterwards these centers received the shipments. The Netherlands Cord-Aid supported the buying of firewood and stoves, mainly to supply the refugees. These were distributed through the Caritas Centers. The Swiss Caritas donated a station wagon and a car d to the diocesan Caritas.

In Diocese of Subotica the activities of Caritas were supported by the Caritas of Gorizia (Italy) which sponsored food and clothing shipments, gave money for garden sawn seeds, purchase of chicks for further distribution, helped the survival of pensioner clubs city in local towns and the organizations for student support for many years and also supported the renovation of the Caritas Club building headquarters in Subotica. 

The Caritas of Oberösterreich (Upper Austria) – Linz became the partner of Caritas in Diocese of Subotica in 1997. They helped the Caritas of Subotica by food and clothing shipments, hospital beds, walkers, wheelchairs and also helped by donating the office building of the Caritas. They also took steps to transfer the experience gained in the field of home-care and nursing in 2001 and supported its establishment and operation in Subotica in form of a pilot-project in a 15 months long period.

The largest project of Serbian Caritas started in 2003, providing home-care and nursing services. In Diocese of Subotica the mission began in Subotica and Novi Sad by a field staff containing 12-12 persons. All the actions were supported by the European Caritas and the services were built up by help of professionals from Germany’s Caritasverband.

In January 2003, the Caritas Diocese of Subotica, the Dean District Caritas Novi Sad and in Senta the parish Caritas as a legal person civil party was registered. This allowed direct reception of foreign aid, the application to tenders and more structured work.

The further development of Caritas Subotica can be found on the following cities: