VATICAN CITY - Agence France-Presse
Vatican Secretary of State Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone looks on as Pope Benedict XVI leads the Good Friday Passion of the Lord Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 6, 2012. REUTERS photo
The Vatican on Wednesday said it was taking direct control of the Catholic charity Caritas Internationalis, following criticism that it has not done enough to promote a Christian message.
A decree signed by Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said the charity network would come under the direct control of his secretariat and the "Cor Unum" Council which is in charge of the Roman Catholic Church's charity work.
It said an "ecclesiastical assistant" and a "support commission" would also be put in place to ensure "the distinctive identity" of Caritas, while three members of the executive board would be appointed directly by the pope.
The position of treasurer will also require the Vatican stamp of approval.
Caritas Internationalis helps 24 million people around the world at any one time and employs a total of one million people, including 600,000 volunteers -- many of them Catholics but also non-believers and members of other faiths.
Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, the head of Cor Unum, said the Vatican had "the duty to follow the activities of Caritas to ensure that its activities and the documents it puts out are in full harmony with the Church magisterium".
In May 2011, Pope Benedict XVI said that Caritas should defend the Church's "non-negotiable values" and put this message on the international agenda.
The Catholic Church has called for Caritas to speak out on sensitive issues including abortion, contraception and euthanasia and insists that the organisation should not be considered a non-governmental group like any other.
Tensions within Caritas emerged last year when one group said that concrete action on the ground should take priority over an evangelisation agenda.
The former head of Caritas, Lesley-Anne Knight, was persuaded by the Vatican not to run for office again last year because of her independent positions.
The new secretary general, France's Michel Roy, hailed the Vatican reform saying it would allow "greater two-way interaction" between the Vatican and Caritas, bolstering the organisation's research and appeals.