While there are literally hundreds of major Catholic relief agencies around the world, and thousands of smaller ones, the agencies listed below are some of the most significant, both in size and resources. To find out more about each agency, including how to donate, click on the name of the agency in the list.
If there is no Catholic relief agency listed for your country, you can go to the Caritas Internationalis website to find one.
In 1897, Fr. Lorenz Werthmann of Freiburg, Germany, founded a Catholic aid organization that he called Caritas. As other countries created their own Catholic aid organizations, they increasingly collaborated on projects. Through the work of Giovanni Battista Montini, later Pope Paul VI, in the early 1950's, Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of national Caritas organizations, was formed.
Caritas Internationalis today represents 162 different aid organizations that work throughout the world. While many of Caritas Internationalis's activities now focus on development, the various constitutive agencies still provide relief services during times of natural disaster and war.
Founded in 1943 by the Catholic bishops of the United States to aid in the resettlement of war refugees in Europe, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has always focused its attention on helping the poor overseas. In the 1950's, Catholic Relief Services branched out and focused more on the Third World—Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Today, Catholic Relief Services remains the chief agency helping the Catholic Church in America to provide assistance to those around the world who suffer from both natural and manmade disasters.
Over 93 percent of the money that Catholic Relief Services spends goes directly to aid projects, rather than overhead. Catholic Relief Services is part of the Caritas Internationalis network.
The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) is the chief relief agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. CAFOD also receives funds from the government of the United Kingdom, the European Union, and private agencies. Founded in 1962, CAFOD sponsors two Fast Days each year (one in Lent and one in the fall), during which the Catholics of England and Wales are encouraged to fast for a day and to donate the money that they would have spent on food to CAFOD for assistance to the poor overseas. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development is part of the Caritas Internationalis network.
The Canadian member of Caritas Internationalis, Development and Peace is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in Canada. Over the past four decades, Development and Peace has provided over $500 million in aid to 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, almost a quarter of which has gone to emergency and disaster relief. Development and Peace receives additional funding from the Canadian International Development Agency.