ROME – In a formal audience with members of the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, Pope Francis thanked the group for their generosity, saying their role is to help foster unity in the church and promote transparency at all levels.

Speaking to the group, the pope said the role of St. Peter was to “strengthen his brothers and serve as the visible sign of unity for the Church.”

Established in 1988, the Papal Foundation describes its mission as serving “the pope and the Catholic Church through faith, energy and financial resources.”

As a foundation dedicated to supporting the works of the pope, members have the task, like St. Peter in the early years of Christianity, of fostering unity in the church, Pope Francis said in his April 21 audience with foundation members and trustees.

“Sadly, we see also in our own day how the unity of the Church is wounded by division,” he said, noting that this division “is often caused by the influence of ideologies and movements that while at times well intentioned, end up fomenting parties and cliques, with each one developing a certain superiority complex when it comes to insight into the practice of the faith.”

This is compounded further, he said, “by the application of secular terminology, especially from the political realm, when speaking of the Church and the faith itself.”

Saint Paul in his letters warned the early Christian community of “these instruments of division,” which Pope Francis said “speak superficially or reject outright the nature of the Church as unity in diversity, as unity without uniformity.”

Francis told foundation members that their sincere generosity allows them to “rise above these partisan divisions and foster unity” through the projects they fund, which provide critical help to those in need “without prejudice or discrimination.”

He also stressed the importance of transparency, saying the Holy See in recent years has gone to great lengths to ensure that the services provided by the church, society, and the Vatican’s own departments, institutions and offices, are “carried out with appropriate transparency.”

Transparency is especially important when it comes to works of charity, he said, as charitable service “relies on the good will and generosity of so many people around the world.”

“While not comparable to the immense harm resulting from the failure to protect the most vulnerable from various forms of abuse, financial scandals caused by a lack of oversight and transparency also damage the good name of the Church and can call into question the credibility of the faith itself,” the pope said.

In this sense, Francis thanked members of the Papal Foundation for their commitment to maintaining effective transparency measures, ensuring that the resources they allocate to scholarships and projects actually benefit those in need.

He closed praying that the group would be “renewed in your zeal to assist the charitable work of the Bishop of Rome, which presides in love over the entire Church.”

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