ROME — Following Pope Francis’ call to build a “poor church for the poor,” the largest confederation of Catholic charities in the world is gathered in Rome this week to reflect upon responses to war, hunger, natural disasters, forced migration, poverty, persecution, and climate change.

During a Tuesday Mass to open Caritas Internationalis’ general assembly, Pope Francis said that although the planet has enough food to feed everyone, “It seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it.”

“We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat,” Francis said on Tuesday.

“We must also remind the powerful of the earth that God will call them to judgment one day,” the pontiff said, “and there it will be revealed if they really tried to provide food for Him in every person, and if they did what they could to preserve the environment so that it could produce this food.”

Environmental issues and what the church calls “care for creation” have been key topics in the Vatican in recent months, leading up to the forthcoming release this summer of the first-ever papal encyclical letter devoted entirely to this topic.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in Rome last month for a Vatican-sponsored conference, advocating for interreligious support ahead of a UN summit on climate change later this year in Paris. Ban sent a message to the Caritas gathering, once again asking for support.

“Achieving sustainable development and mitigating and adapting to climate change are profound challenges,” he said in the letter read on Wednesday by Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, outgoing president of Caritas.

“It is imperative that we work together as one,” Ban said.

The UN leader also said that eradicating extreme poverty, ending social exclusion, and protecting the environment are consistent with the teachings of major religions, adding that it’s “critically important that governments at the highest level hear your strong moral voice in the coming months.”

As the general assembly unfolded, representatives of the 165 partners of the Rome-based Caritas network stressed the staggering variety of needs to which Catholic charities are struggling to respond around the world.

Rev. Pius Perumana for example, is the head of Caritas Nepal, a country that has been devastated by three major earthquakes in less than two weeks. The disasters left more than 8,000 people dead. Perumana told Crux that more than eight million people need help. Over 400,000 buildings were destroyed, he said, with 80 percent of the cities and towns in 14 national districts wiped away.

Nepal is receiving aid from Caritas Australia, the biggest partner of the Nepalese branch, as well as India and other neighboring countries. However, Perumana said the country is still “in a very serious situation, we need much, much help.”

In June, monsoon season will begin and will last four months, which might create another set of disasters. Rains over the hills that were shaken by the earthquake – the Himalayan valley was moved 10 feet – will likely create landslides.

Perumana is asking the international community to help provide shelter for the millions that lost their homes.

“Without shelter, medicine and food, it’ll be a very difficult time,” he said.

Dana Shahin from Caritas Jordan asked the world to stop thinking about the Middle East “only in the news and in fancy halls during banquets.”

“For how long will we suffer while others are indifferent?” she asked. “How long [will] our children remain under bombardment [with] car bombs killing their childhood?”

Speaking to Crux during a coffee break, Shahin said that the Middle East is now divided into two types of countries: Those that live in crisis, with circumstances leading people to take refuge in a neighboring nations, and those countries which, while still poor, welcome refugees so they can have an opportunity to live a life “with dignity, in peace, and with freedom.”

According to UN statistics, Jordan currently hosts over 700,000 refugees from Iraq and Syria, and that number is projected to grow beyond one million before the end of the year.

Shahin’s biggest concern, she said, is that funds to help the refugees will eventually run out, because “people stop caring, they lose interest in helping.”

Nabil Nissan, executive director of Caritas Iraq, told Crux that beyond providing immediate relief to over 30,000 families, his organization is working on improving relationships among Christians, Yazidis, and Muslims in order to encourage a united front against ISIS and other terrorist organizations.

“We need to spread the culture of peaceful coexistence, among the Iraqi community and in the rest of the region too,” Nissan said.

Not all Caritas personnel, however, see external aid as the best way to solve their problems.

Rev. Evaristus Bassey, from Caritas Nigeria, a country where the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has killed hundreds, told Crux he’s made “his final appeal” to Caritas Internationalis.

“Nigeria is a rich country, with poor people” that should be able to help instead of being helped, he said. Bassey said his organization is trying to see how they can organize themselves to be less dependent. Nigeria has a population of 170 million, he said, 20 million of whom are Catholics.

“If we organize ourselves, we should even be able to support our neighboring countries,” he said.

The biggest challenge, Bassey said, is distributing aid.

“We fear going into Boko Haram territory, [because] we can get killed by terrorists who steal the food for themselves,” he said.

Spaniard Jorge Nuno Mayer, Secretary General of Caritas Europe, said their priority is the issue of “European borders.”

“There is a war in Europe against migrants,” Mayer told Crux, saying that the continent tolerates the death of thousands of migrants hoping to “scare others not to come.”

Over 3,000 African migrants have died in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe in the first half of 2015, he said, the equivalent of two Titanics. In early May, the numbers are already higher than the total from 2014.

“When we accept death in the name of security, something the United States knows about, we lose the substance of our humanity,” Mayer said. “It is in this battle of values were Caritas has to be present.”

Members of the Cuban branch of Caritas were also in Rome for the General Assembly.

Bishop Jorge Enrique Serpa Pérez told Crux that part of the onus is on Cuba to take advantage of the new openness created by restored diplomatic relations between his country and the United States, making it possible for humanitarian relief to reach people.

“When one asks for help, it’s because help is needed,” Serpa said. “The country that asks for help has to provide the corresponding environment for that help to arrive.”

Thinking ahead of Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Cuba in late September, Serpa said he hopes the pontiff’s presence can have a “cascade effect,” injecting energy to religious life but also generating much-needed social change.