VATICAN CITY (AP)— Pope Benedict XVI said charity was a "duty of justice" for Roman Catholics and that they must assume greater responsibility to help the less fortunate.

Focusing on almsgiving in his traditional message for Lent — the time the church sets aside for fasting and prayer in preparation for Easter — the pope warned Tuesday against do-gooders who are in it for personal aggrandizement, saying that true charity goes beyond philanthropy.

He said that helping the poor and abandoned is for Christians a "duty of justice, even prior to being an act of charity." Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 6.

During the presentation of the message, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, head of the Vatican charity office, advised donors to check where their money was actually going.

Without giving names, he noted that the overhead of some organizations is close to 50 percent of the money received. Cordes said that figures from 2006 showed that the administrative costs of the Catholic charity Caritas in Italy were 9 percent of the donations.

The pope also underlined the benefits of charity for the donor. "By drawing close to others through almsgiving, we draw close to God; it can become an instrument for authentic conversion and reconciliation."