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Monday, February 9, 2015

To the representatives of Expo 2015: the root of all ills is inequality

Vatican City, 7 February 2015 (VIS) – On Saturday afternoon Pope Francis sent a video message to the 500 national and international representatives gathered in Milan, where Expo 2015 will be held, to address the theme, “The ideas of Expo 2015: Towards the Milan Charter”.

In his message, the Pope refers to his address in November to the Conference on Nutrition organised by the the FAO in Rome, in which he affirmed that “interest in the production, availability and accessibility of foodstuffs, climate change and agricultural trade should certainly inspire rules and technical measures, but the first concern must be the individual as a whole, who lacks daily nourishment and has given up thinking about life, family and social relationships, instead fighting for survival”.

“St. John Paul II, in the inauguration in this hall of the First Conference on Nutrition in 1992, warned the international community against the risk of the 'paradox of plenty', in which 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. Unfortunately, this 'paradox' remains relevant. 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”.

To overcome the temptation of sophisms, “that nominalism of thought that goes beyond … but never touches reality”, the Pope suggests three practical approaches: turn first to urgent priorities, be witnesses of charity, and be guardians rather than masters of the earth.

“Aim your gaze and heart not towards an emergency pragmatism that shows itself to be perpetually provisional, but instead an approach aimed at removing the structural causes of poverty. Let us recall that the root of all evil is inequality”, says Francis, repeating his words in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium: “we have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. … It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. … The excluded are not the 'exploited' but the outcast, the 'leftovers'”.

“It is therefore necessary, if we really want to solve problems and not become lost in sophisms, to remove the root of all ills, which is inequality. To do this, there are some priority decisions to be made: to renounce the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and to act above all on the structural causes of inequality”.

“Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good”, he continues. “Where, then, should a healthy economic policy begin? What are the necessary pillars for public administration? The answer is precise: the dignity of the human person and the common good. Unfortunately, however, these two pillars, that ought to structure economic policy, often 'seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for integral development. … Please, be courageous and do not be afraid, in political and economic projects, to allow yourselves to be influenced by a broader meaning of life as this will help you to truly serve the common good and will give you strength in 'striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all'”.

With reference to the third point, the Pope again mentioned a comment he heard many years ago from an elderly peasant: “God always forgives; men forgive at times; but the Earth never forgives. We must care for our sister the Earth, our Mother Earth, so that she does not respond with destruction”. “Faced with the goods of the Earth, we are required 'not to lose sight of the origin or purpose of these goods, so as to bring about a world of fairness and solidarity', says the social doctrine of the Church. The Earth has been entrusted to us in order to be a Mother to us, able to give what is necessary for each person to live. … The Earth is not an inheritance we have received from our parents, but rather a loan from our offspring to us, so that we may take care of it, enable it to continue and restore it to them”.

“The stewardship of the Earth is not a task exclusive to Christians, but instead applies to all”, he continued. “I entrust to you what I said during the Mass of the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome: 'I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! … We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness'. Care for the Earth not only with goodness, but also with tenderness”.

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