Home > History

Since 1953 – 1963


Caritas Manila's history began with a Cardinal that walked his talk. Rufino Cardinal Santos, first Filipino Cardinal, became the 29th Archbishop of Manila in a post-war scenario that saw a Philippines plagued with the following: a high dependence on the upper class in the social, economic and political growth of the nation; a growing inequality in the distribution of wealth; critical problems of labor, land and tenancy that caused the communist movement to gain ground. It was to this social order that Rufino Cardinal Santos spoke upon his installation:

"I have thought of organizing a social welfare for uplifting the spirit and soul of these unfortunate members of our community. The Archdiocese will lead in this undertaking with an initial amount of fifty to one hundred thousand pesos. Then I expect the more fortunate of the faithful in the Archdiocese to contribute their help in the amount of 1 peso a month for the same purpose, in order that we may budget some two hundred to two hundred fifty thousand pesos a year for buying food, clothing and medicines for distribution among our poor brethren, and the education of their children."

This plan took shape a little later, when the Cardinal appointed an eleven-man Administrative Board on October 1, 1953. And so a new era had dawned, when the establishment of Caritas Manila (first known as Catholic Charities) brought structure and organization to the way the Church's charitable works in the Archdiocese of Manila were being carried out.

Largely, the first decade was a decade of talking to the poor, of giving aid when needed. Sure, programs that harnessed talents and opened up opportunities were started such as the educational assistance program and job placement program. But it was medical assistance, crisis assistance and emergency relief that reached the most number of clients and became the most sought-after programs of Caritas Manila's first decade.

Since 1963 - 1973

While the establishment of Caritas Manila was hailed as a "new era" in the Philippines, critics quickly pointed out that Cardinal Santos' socio-economic involvement merely set the tune for charitable action that does not address the roots of the social problem. Caritas Manila has maintained that for the very many at that time, material assistance—dole-out, if you will—was the necessary first step to enable the family to devote its time and efforts to become self-sustaining. Nevertheless, the works exerted by the institution in its second decade were steps toward promoting developmental projects for the poor.

It was a decade of helping the poor help themselves, whether as individuals or as communities. Skills training programs were pushed; job placement and vocational training programs evolved; capital loan assistance became the main project for fisherfolk in Cardona, Province of Rizal (then still part of the Archdiocese).

Perhaps it was Caritas Manila's response to the Great Flood of 1972 that best describes its program evolution this decade. Fourteen days of howling storms had produced rainfall that, if collected, would have supplied the water needs of Manila for 50 years, until the year 2022. Beyond providing relief goods, Caritas Manila conceptualized the "Invest in People" rehabilitation program. It granted motorized fishing boats and fishnets to 84 parishioners in six parishes, payable within one year without interest. Recipients were required to form organizations to promote cooperative living. As Caritas Manila gave a new face to its emergency relief program, it cemented the marriage of charity (love) and development (justice) that would later best describe its identity.

Since 1973 - 1983

This decade, more priests and religious participated in conscientization programs, worked in community organizations and became more involved with the poor and oppressed as abuses of the martial law government gained ground. In the Archdiocese of Manila, however, the Church adopted an official policy of critical collaboration with the government. Perhaps it was this stance of critical collaboration that influenced Catholic Charities, being the Archdiocese's official arm for social services, to remain non-poilitical. Or perhaps it simply chose to uphold its self-concept of being a welfare and development office, an image that was developed in the earlier decade. What is clear is that Catholic Charities engaged in more active dialogue with the poor in the Archdiocese.

This thrust was reflected in 1975 when, under the guidance of then newly installed Archbishop of Manila Jaime L. Sin, Catholic Charities acquired a new name: Caritas Manila. By then, the name "Caritas" had become the international symbol of Christian charity, with most diocesan social action centers bearing the name. It was officially adopted when Caritas Manila was incorporated in 1977.

This decade marked the start of Caritas Manila's special apostolates programs forcused on children. More programs for children started in this decade than any other such that by the 1990's, "Caritas" had become synonymous with children. Among these programs was the Targeted Maternal and Child Health Program to combat widespread malnutrition, jointly sponsored by Caritas Manila and the Catholic Relief Services-United States Catholic Conference. This decade also saw the rise of the first Catholic School for special children as well as the Morning Glory Program, originally a special project designed to help women engaged in prostitution.

It continued to be a decade of helping the poor help themselves, and of giving aid when needed, whether as individuals or as communities. Programs such as job placement, vocational training, crisis intervention, medical assistance and educational assistance remained a regular part of Caritas services. This decade, the term "community" took on a broader meaning—embracing people from another race and illustrating the policy of critical collaboration adopted by the Church hierarchy. The Philippine Refugee Processing Center in Morong, Bataan—a project of the Archdiocese of Manila that was placed under the direct supervision and sponsorship of Caritas Manila—was borne of Cardinal Sin's offer of assistance in the government's refugee work. The program took care of 2,000 children in its initial year.

In a period marked by growing political and social conflict, Catholic Charities took on the name Caritas Manila (Caritas, meaning "love") and further honed the charity-and-development approach that started in the earlier decade. "Becoming Caritas Manila" further highlighted the inherent challenge of doing everything in Christian love for the poor—helping not merely because the poor need help, but because they are brothers and sisters whose dignity must be upheld.

Since 1983 – 1993

As a result of the Aquino assassination in 1983, Cardinal Sin gradually shifted the Church hierarchy's stance from one of critical collaboration with the Marcos government to one of open opposition. Many Filipinos were mobilized in the struggle for freedom and justice, leading to the People Power revolution in 1986 that drew praises from all over the world. In a decade marked by a heightened consciousness of "people power" and of being "Church of the Poor", Caritas Manila responded with program delivery that was—more than any other time befoe it—participatory, empowering, systematic and long-term, all-embracing.

This decade produced the first three-year development plan for Caritas Manila, as well as ended the institution's dependence on foreign donations. Clearly, for Caritas Manila, the development of the Filipino people should be borne mainly by the Filipinos themselves. Whether it is community organizations eventually identifying and soliving problems on their own (through the Integrated Christian Community Development Program, the flagship program of the decade) or abused children being reunited with their families after a wholistic healing process or informal settlers sent back to the province where they can find a source of income, development plans always considered that partner-clients achieve self-sufficiency, with the poor themselves as the primary movers for change in their own lives.

This decade, Caritas Manila likewise further cast its lot among those "whom no one else serves". Special apostolates were expanded to cover programs for persons-with-HIV/AIDS, prison community and drug dependents, among others. By the next decade, Caritas Manila has been a recognized voice in international conferences for the Philippine Church's intervention for people-with-HIV/AIDS, as well as respected as among the "Best Non-government Organization" in prison service.

In this decade when people empowerment became key, when calamities devastated houses and communities, when no one paid attention to special sectors such as prisoners and people with AIDS, Caritas Manila honed the mark of discipleship: "I was living in subhuman conditions and you organized my community to face our issues; I was trying hard to make both ends meet, and you believed in my skills; I was in prison, and you visited me; I was a child who cannot feel safe in my house, and you gave me a home: I was ostracized because of AIDS, and you educated others about it…" Caritas Manila has become a time and place where one sees Christ in others, where one becomes Christ for others, where one encounters Christ through others.

Since 1993 - 2003

Events near the end of the decade would significantly influence the current direction of Caritas. First was the celebration of the Jubilee Year in 2000 that is, in its biblical roots, a time to actualize social justice and proclaim liberation for all. Second was the so-called EDSA Tres where supporters of the ousted President (mostly poor) stormed the EDSA Shrine, raising the question: "What has the Church done for the poor? The process of "professionalizing" delivery of services in the previous decade has likewise brought on criticisms of being "hard to reach". Lastly, near the end of this decade came the announcement of planned realignments in the Archdiocese, narrowing the geographical scope of the Archdiocese of Manila and giving birth to other dioceses. This situation called on Caritas Manila to step up on the lead role that was invested in it as far as social services and development in the Archdiocese are concerned, a lead role that took a backseat as running its programs alone demanded all of its resources.

Largely, this was a decade for unity and empowerment, for promoting volunteerism in a scale never seen before. As the community organizing program wound up circa 1993, Caritas concentrated on the Parish Empowerment Program in the belief that this would increase the reach of its efforts. The challenges brought on by the Jubilee Year and

EDSA Tres served as an impetus to further expand this program into the Parish and District Empowerment Program, offering assistance and becoming a unifying instrument for parish and district social services and development ministries in the areas of organizational development, education and formation; programs and operations; and finance. Special apostolates programs continued side by side with this consolidation effort even as an advocacy office was put in place. As 2003 ended and the division of the Archdiocese of Manila was completed, Caritas Manila took on an internal re-organization to keep itself more relevant to the signs of the times. This entailed a critical analysis of the environment, streamlining of programs and services and constant consultation with the new suffragan dioceses. Caritas Manila's next 50 years have begun.

2003 to present“A people called by the Father in Jesus Christ to become a Community of Persons with Fullness of Life witnessing to the Kingdom of God by living the Paschal Mystery in the power of the Holy Spirit with Mary as Companion.”

The new vision clearly states that we are or should be “Persons with Fullness of Life.” Guided by this vision, Caritas Manila has adopted a new approach that anchors its operations on the parishes and the vicariates while enhancing its ability to link those in need of help to those who wish to help – to gather more, and be able to give more. Direct intervention and operation, except for special cases, are handled in the vicariate and parish levels by trained and enabled servant leaders, volunteers, and parish priests.

In 2004 and 2005, Caritas Manila had to undergo a major organizational overhaul in response to the call of the times and the desire to create a better Caritas Manila. It involved rightsizing the organization and establishing new systems and procedures meant to empower the vicariate offices and the parish social services and development ministries in the Archdiocese. The quality of volunteer servant leaders continues to be enhanced through formation and skills development involving ladderized training. The result is a more cost-efficient organization that can adequately respond to the needs of the people especially the poor. The restructured Caritas Manila with its network of volunteer servant leaders can handle not just the original workload but the demands of scaling-up yearly the number of beneficiaries and urban poor partners under Caritas Manila’s social development programs.

Focus is as important as rightsizing and restructuring. From multiple concerns, Caritas Manila is now focused on Education (Youth Servant Leadership & Education Program), Health (All is Well Primary & Preventive Healthcare Program), and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management( Caritas Damayan) as flagship programs; And, Restorative Justice for Prisoners (Caritas RJ) and Housing & Advocacy as special programs.

2013 Present

We have a New Archbishop and New Chairman! Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle, D.D.

Caritas Manila rejoices and welcomes its new chairman. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Diocese of Imus Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, a known theologian, as the new archbishop of Manila. Tagle, 54, succeeded Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, who served the influential post for eight years. The appointment was officially announced in Rome last October 13. The information was officially received by the Media Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Thursday in a communiqué from the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila.

“I write to inform you that the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has appointed His Excellency Most Reverend Luis Antonio Tagle, as Archbishop of Manila,” said Monsignor Gabor Pinter, Charge D’ Affaires Rosales, who turned 79 last August 16, earlier said that the Vatican had already accepted his resignation early this year, and that he was just waiting for his successor to be named.Born in Manila on June 21, 1957, Tagle took his Philosophy and Theology at the Ateneo De Manila University’s San Jose Major Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood on February 27, 1982, at the age of 25. From 1985 to 1992, he was sent for further studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. where he earned his Doctorate in Sacred Theology.

Since 1997, Tagle has been a member of the International Theological Commission of the Vatican. In 1998, he was an expert at the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia that took place in Rome.

On December 12, 2001, he was ordained Bishop of Imus. At the Synod of Bishops held in Rome in 2005, he was elected member of the post-synodal Council and assistant to Cardinal Angelo Scola, general reporter of this Synod.

Tagle is currently the chairman of the Commission on Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). The CBCP lauded the appointment of Archbishop-elect Tagle. CBCP President and Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar described Tagle’s appointment as God’s gift to the people in the Archdiocese of Manila. “He is God’s gift to the people of Manila because he is not only a deeply religious man, he is also, despite of his youth a recognized figure not only nationally but also internationally as a theologian and as a speaker…His face and voice are familiar in the Vatican.”

“Archbishop-elect Tagle is a long time member of the Congregation of the Faith in Rome which was headed before by Pope Benedict XVI. So Benedict XVI know him personally,” shared Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz.

“Love makes one a true shepherd, not position. I tell myself as though it were the Lord telling me, `Chito, do not think you have become great because of your new position. Be great rather in being a beloved and loving disciple of the Lord,” shared the new Archbishop of Manila during his installation at the Manila Cathedral last December 12. The Mayors of the cities covered by the Archdiocese of Manila, Makati’s Jejomar Binay Jr., Mandaluyong’s Benhur Abalos, Manila’s Alfredo Lim, Pasay’s Antonino Calixto, and San Juan’s Guia Gomez were present at the installation. With his installation Bishop Tagle is now also the new chairman of Caritas Manila, the oldest and foremost social services and development institution of the Church in the Philippines.

In an informal interview, Archbishop-elect Tagle shared with Ms. Zita Morales, Caritas Manila’s social marketing staff, that he has plans for Caritas and the social services and development programs in the Archdiocese.