The Society of St Vincent de Paul has about 800,000 members in some 140 countries worldwide and their leader said other countries could learn from Scotland.
“Since I became president six years ago, I wanted to visit Scotland,” Renato Lima de Olivera said.
“It is not the biggest but it is one of the most generous. In my home city of Brasillia we have 500 Vincentian Conferences. In all of Scotland there are just 300 but there is extraordinary generosity and quality of charity.”
Today the society numbers about 800,000 members in some 140 countries worldwide, and Mr de Olivera said it was particularly impressed by the ‘huge spirituality of the members in Scotland.’
“In some countries I will not name people do the charity without the spiritual aspect,” he explained.
“But here there is clearly a great connection to the Church.”
He also said the ‘Mini Vinnies’ programme which introduces primary school pupils to the society was a great initiative other countries could learn from.
“Our membership is ageing. If we don’t do anything in 20 years many conferences may die,” he said. “So getting young people involved like this is a sign of hope. Of course we have to stay engaged with them after school.”
The Brazilian said he joined the society when he was 15, and still worked in his local parish conference.
“We have to help the poor. We have to do the work,” he said. “Nowadays donations are harder to come by. We have to be creative. Many of us live in societies that are totally indifferent to the values we defend. All over the world we face many problems.
“There is economic poverty everywhere but there is also spiritual and moral poverty. We can be very professional with how we deal with material poverty but there is more we can do with tackling spiritual poverty. Mental health, isolation, all these things.”
He urged Scottish Catholics to join their local Vincentian society saying. “It’s a great opportunity to be a better man, a better woman’ and he said the society in Scotland should ‘Keep doing your good work for the poor, don’t waste time, don’t get distracted by secondary issues and build a better world around us.’