The hungry ask for dignity, not for charity, Francis tells FAO

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/21/2014 - 17:24

“It is painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities”” the Pope said at the Second International Conference on Nutrition taking place this week in Rome. When there is no solidarity people revolt against the institutions. The water wars was one of the topics discussed

“It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities”, the “primacy of profit”, which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature.” Pope Francis said this in the address he gave in Spanish today to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with headquarters in Rome and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Pope spoke at the Second International Conference on Nutrition –organised by FAO and WHO – since the first which took place in 1992. The hungry “ask for dignity not charity” the Pope said amidst roaring applause from the international delegates attending the meeting. Francis briefly greeted UN staff in Italian, calling on them to help prevent another global water “war”.

Francis arrived at FAO’s headquarters on Viale Aventino just before 11 am in the blue Ford Focus he usually uses on his visits outside the Vatican. The Pope was welcomed at the entrance by FAO’s director general, the Brazilian José Graziano da Silva. The Italian Minister of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, Maurizio Martina accompanied Francis into the Plenary Hall, where he was greeted with waves of applause from the delegates who were all standing for the occasion. The first person Francis went to greet in the front row, was Letizia Ortiz, the young Spanish queen who had just finished speaking. The Pope left the FAO just over half an hour later, at 11:30.

“The fates of nations are intertwined, more than ever before; they are like the members of one family who depend upon each other,” Francis said. “However, we live in a time in which the relations between nations are too often damaged by mutual suspicion, that at times turns into forms of military and economic aggression, undermining friendship between brothers and rejecting or discarding what is already excluded. He who lacks his daily bread or a decent job is well aware of this. This is a picture of today’s world, in which it is necessary to recognise the limits of approaches based on the sovereignty of each State, intended as absolute, and national interest, frequently conditioned by small power groups.”

In this context, “the right to food can only be ensured if we care about the actual subject, that is, the person who suffers the effects of hunger and malnutrition.” Continuing his speech in Spanish, Francis said: “Nowadays there is much talk of rights, frequently neglecting duties; perhaps we have paid too little heed to those who are hungry. It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities”, the “primacy of profit”, which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature. And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain, at the street corner, and ask to be recognised as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity,” the Pope stated amidst applause from the delegates.

Francis cast delegates’ minds back to the first conference on malnutrition held in 1992, when John Paul II, in the very same Hall, warned the international community against the “paradox of plenty” which is that “there is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes." Francis pointed to this as the first problem that needs to be tackled: “There are few subjects about which we find as many fallacies as those related to hunger; few topics as likely to be manipulated by data, statistics, the demands of national security, corruption, or futile lamentation about the economic crisis.” The second challenge is “the lack of solidarity”, a word that “subconsciously we would like to remove this word from the dictionary.” “Our societies are characterised by growing individualism and division: this ends up depriving the weakest of a decent life, and provokes revolts against institutions. When there is a lack of solidarity in a country, the effects are felt throughout the world.”

The Pope, accompanied by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the Substitute for General Affairs to the Secretary of State, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, talked about “natural law” being “inscribed in the human heart,” adding that it “speaks a language that everyone can understand: love, justice, peace, elements that are inseparable from each other.” In making this point, Francis wished to remind his audience of the interest the Church has and the commitment of the Holy See to “contribute to identifying and assuming the criteria to be met in order to develop an equitable international system.” “Above all, no system of discrimination, de facto or de jure, linked to the capacity of access to the market of foodstuffs, must be taken as a model for international efforts that aim to eliminate hunger,” Francis said before blessing delegates and moving to an adjacent hall to greet FAO staff in Italian and thank them for the work their “backstage work”. “Water is not free as we so often think it is : this is a serious problem that can lead to war,” Francis said speaking off the cuff. He ended his speech amidst waves of applause and cheers from UN staff who cried out “Viva il Papa!”, “Long live the Pope!”

Pope Francis also spoke of the importance of protecting the environment: “We must care for our sister the Earth, our Mother Earth, so that she does not respond with destruction.” “I remember a phrase that I heard from an elderly man many years ago: God always forgives … our misdemeanours, our abuse, God always forgives; men forgive at times; but the Earth never forgives.”

Images, Video or Audio
By Iacopo Scaramuzzi