Your Initiatives “must mirror Christian identity, reflecting preferential option for poor”: Nuncio in Kenya to CRS

A screenshot of Archbishop Hubertus Matheus Maria van Megen, the Papal Nuncio to Kenya making his remarks during the launch of CRS 2023 to 2030 Strategic Plan at Nyeri House, Westlands in Nairobi on Tuesday, 18 June 2024. Credit: Screenshot from Capuchin TV.

Activities of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the humanitarian arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), need to foster the “Christian identity”, the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya has said.

Speaking during the launch of the CRS 2023-2030 strategic plan in the East African Region in Nairobi on Tuesday, June 18, Archbishop Hubertus van Megen emphasized the need for CRS initiatives to be aligned with the key principles of the Catholic Social Teaching, including the “preferential option for the poor”.

“CRS projects and actions must mirror Christian identity, reflecting a preferential option for the poor, the sanctity of life from conception to death, and the inherent dignity bestowed upon every human being by their Creator,” Archbishop van Megen said in his input under the theme, “Identity of the Church”.

Christian identity, he explained, is “also about the care for creation and respect for every human being irrespective of their religious background.”

Referring to the values and virtues in the Gospel, which the Catholic Church teaches, Archbishop van Megen called upon Catholic NGOs to be cognizant of the “winds of change: in the contemporary “ever-evolving world” and be guided by the “compass” of the Catholic identity in their planned activities.


He said, “In the ever-evolving world where the winds of change are swift and unpredictable, adapting to the latest fashion as expressed in the social media, it is our Catholic identity that serves as a compass guiding us through the tumultuous seas of societal shifts and cultural upheavals.”

Catholic identity, the Dutch-born Vatican diplomat said, “is not just one of the many aspects of our organization; it is the soul that animates our purpose, the beacon that lights our path, and the foundation upon which we build our aspirations.”

“Our Catholic identity is woven into the very fabric of our mission; it is reflected in every act of service, in every policy we advocate for, and in every life we touch,” he said at the event that had Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama Pasqualetto of the Raleigh Diocese, who serves on the CRS Governance board, and his counterpart from the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, Bishop Edward James Burns, a member of the CRS Foundation board, in attendance.

Archbishop van Megen went on to describe Catholic identity as “a call to action from the Gospel itself; a clarion call not just to serve with our hands but with our hearts to seek Christ in every person we encounter, to love unconditionally as He loves us.”

“Members of NGOs like CRS welcome people from different religions, but on the other hand, donors financing many of the projects are mostly of Western origin that are secular or even atheist by nature,” he noted, adding, “Both sides have their expectations and demands rooted in their own convictions and cultural values which at times do not coincide with values held dearly by the Catholic Church.”

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Considering the diverse ideologies and cultural beliefs that may not be in conformity with the Christian identity, the representative of the Holy Father in Kenya invoked Jesus' images of salt and yeast, and cautioned Catholic NGOs against giving into non-Christian values, lest they lose their distinctive essence.

“Jesus taught that His followers should be the yeast of society. He also used the image of salt warning His disciples of the dangers of losing their identity,” he said, and added, “That question of identity, therefore, goes to the heart of the gospel which goes back to Christ Himself.”

Archbishop van Megen continued, “Catholic NGOs, more than any other entity in the Church, are called to be the yeast or salt, representing Christ as good Samaritans through their work, projects, and assistance to migrants, refugees, the imprisoned, the rejected, and the poor.”

The 62-year-old Nairobi-based Vatican diplomat, who started his service as Apostolic Nuncio in Sudan in 2014 lauded CRS for reaching out to the needy in society across the globe. 

He said, “CRS can take pride in its worldwide network that assists and facilitates wherever people are in need. In this sense, CRS embodies true Catholic identity, which is about embracing and including all people regardless of their religious backgrounds.”


“Religious formation should strengthen our conscience to combat individualism and overconsumption and ensure that we act together for the common good and promotion of the poor,” Archbishop van Megen said during the June 18 event held at Nyeri House in Westlands, Nairobi, the headquarters of CRS in the East African region.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.