Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo has been elected president of Caritas Internationalis, the charitable organization of the Catholic Church, on Saturday, May 13.
“I was surprised to be elected,” Archbishop Kikuchi was quoted by AsiaNews.
“I intended to leave this morning, after someone became president. So it was quite difficult to understand what was happening last night,” he said.
The Japanese prelate will be serving a four-year term as head of the confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations that operates in over 200 countries and territories.
“Caritas must be in the front line to receive, accompany, serve and defend the poor and vulnerable,” he said in an address to Caritas members.
“This mission must be upheld and capture all attentions of the members of the confederation,” he added.
Archbishop Kikuchi currently serves as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan and secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.
He will be taking over the leadership of Caritas from Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, former archbishop of Manila, who is pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization in the Vatican.
Cardinal Tagle was president of Caritas Internationalis since 2015 until November last year when Pope Francis announced the removal of the organization’s top officials for “deficiencies” in management.
Archbishop Kikuchi said Caritas “must be a professional agency of international humanitarian aid, but at the same time proclaim the good news of Jesus through its actions.”
“It must create hope and not disappointment … an instrument of unity, but not of inequality. It must promote a synodal Church that involves everyone. No one must be excluded and no one must be forgotten,” he said.
“I have to do my best to create unity among the members of the confederation. And I need everyone to walk and work together,” said the archbishop.
Archbishop Kikuchi was born in Iwate on Nov. 1, 1958. He professed his vows as member of the Divine Word Missionaries in March 1985 prior to his ordination to the priesthood on March 15, 1986.
He served as a missionary to Ghana, where he was a parish priest in a rural parish for eight years. He has served as Archbishop of Tokyo since his appointment in 2017, prior to which he had served as the Bishop of Niigata since 2004.
In a statement released on Saturday evening, Caritas Internationalis congratulated Archbishop Kikuchi on his election.
He has worked with the Caritas confederation in various positions and titles since 1995, when he began as a volunteer in a refugees camp in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire).
He served as executive director of Caritas Japan from 1999 to 2004 and president of Caritas Japan from 2007 to 2022.
He was also president of Caritas Asia from 2011 to 2019, a member of the Caritas Internationalis Executive Committee from 1999 to 2004, and a member of the Representative Council from 2011 to 2019. – with a report from Vatican News