A clear and realistic denunciation of an intolerable situation: the number of people suffering from hunger is increasing but people are unaware of it.
Benedict xvi spoke in these terms to the FAO, the United Nations institution for food and agriculture which has organized a World Summit on Food Security. It was reasonable to expect that his Discourse would meet with respect and practical answers, coming as it did from an authority to whom an immense number of people look with trust in every part of the globe, even outside the Catholic Church.
In continuity with the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate and with the teaching of his Predecessors, the Pope repeats that the drama of poverty, of which “hunger is the most cruel and concrete sign”, does not depend on population growth. This is an established statistic that is only denied for ideological motives or in defence of existing interests and privileges.
Paul vi had already said this in his two “sister” Encyclicals in defence of human life ( Populorum Progressio and Humanae Vitae ), then John Paul ii repeated it on various occasions and his Successor is now reaffirming it based on a consensus that is now also beginning to spread in the international organizations.
The Pope's long Discourse deserves attention because it is realistic. Above all it challenges the civil Authorities and the members of the International Community. It does so with a clear perception that discerns “the weakness of current mechanisms for food security” and suggests changes.
In the name of the Catholic Church – as Paul vi said previously in 1965, when for the first time a Pope addressed representatives of all the people of the earth – and without any pretension to interfere in political decisions. But in the name of a global reality concerned solely with defending every human person.
Only in the name of this criterion of the “common membership of the worldwide human family” – Benedict xvi forcefully emphasized – can “every people and therefore every country”, be “asked to practise solidarity”. Hence, he appealed to reason, calling for an urgent change in the international agenda and in concrete decisions: to put an end to the scandalous destruction of foodstuffs, modifying the mechanisms for international aid and cooperation, redefining international relations themselves with fresh attention to the rural world, and safeguarding the environment.
One might well wonder whether Benedict xvi's lucid and concrete reasoning will be heard and whether his words will be taken into consideration. Perhaps many are uninformed – and here the role of the international media is fundamental – and others will have recourse to the stereotypes of an obscurantist Catholic Church in the face of a presumed overpopulation of the world.
However, it will be far from easy: indeed, the Pope has reasserted that the Church “respects the knowledge gained through scientific study, and decisions arrived at through reason”. And he speaks in the name of reason as well as of faith.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 26, 2020
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