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Monday, February 2, 2015

There is no humanity without cultivation of the land: Francis on the central role of agriculture

Vatican City, 31 January 2015 (VIS) - “There is no humanity without the cultivation of the land; there is no good life without the food it produces for the men and women of every continent. Agriculture thus demonstrates its central role”, said Pope Francis this morning, as he received in audience two hundred managers from the National Confederation of Direct Cultivators in the Clementine Hall on the seventh anniversary of its foundation.

The name “direct cultivators”, explained the Pontiff, refers to cultivation, “a typically human and fundamental activity. In agricultural work there is, indeed, acceptance of the precious gift of the land that comes from God, but there is also its development through the equally valuable work of men and women, called to respond boldly and creatively to the mandate forever entrusted to mankind, the cultivation and stewardship of the land”.

This task, which requires time and energy, constitutes “a true vocation. It deserves to be recognised and suitably valued as such, also in concrete political and economic decisions. This means eliminating the obstacles that penalise such a valuable activity and that often make it appear unattractive to new generations, even though statistics show an increase in the number of students in schools and institutes of agriculture, which leads us to foresee and increase in the numbers of those employed in the agricultural sector. At the same time, it is necessary to pay due attention to the removal of land from agricultural use, to make it available for apparently more lucrative purposes”.

This reflection on agrarian work led the Holy Father to focus on two critical areas: poverty and hunger, and the protection of the environment. “Vatican Council II reiterated the common destination of earthly goods, but in reality the dominant economic system excludes many people from their correct use. The absolutism of the rules of the market and a throwaway culture in which waste of food has reached unacceptable proportions, along with other factors, have caused poverty and suffering for many families. Therefore, the system of production and distribution of food needs to be fundamentally re-evaluated. As our grandparents taught us, you do not play with food! Bread forms part of the sacredness of human life, and must not therefore be treated as a mere commodity”.

With regard to the second theme, the Pope underlined that in Genesis man is called not only to cultivate the land, but also to take care of it. These two aspects “are closely linked: every agriculturalist is well aware of how difficult it has become to cultivate the land in a time of accelerated climate change and increasingly widespread extreme meteorological events. How can we continue to produce good food for the lives of all when climate stability is at risk, when the air, water and the earth itself lose their purity as a result of pollution? We are truly realising the importance of timely action to safeguard Creation; it is urgent that nations succeed in collaborating for this fundamental purpose. The challenge is to achieve a form of agriculture with a low environmental impact. How can we ensure we safeguard the earth as well as cultivating it? Indeed, only in this way will future generations be able to continue to inhabit and cultivate our earth”.

The Holy Father concluded with an invitation to “rediscover love for the earth as the 'mother', as St. Francis would say, from which we come and to which we are constantly called upon to return. And this leads to a proposal: to protect the earth, to make an alliance with her, so that she many continue to be, as God intends, the source of life for the entire human family”.

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