Church Proposes Ways to Ease Africa's Plight

Expressed by Cardinal Martino at Symposium of African and European Bishops

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ROME, NOV. 15, 2004 ( The Catholic Church has proposals to try to overcome the problems of Africa, including collaborating with a Global Fund aimed at eliminating pandemic diseases, says a Vatican official.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, outlined some of the Church’s proposals last Friday, when he addressed the first international symposium of African and European bishops. The meeting in Rome gathered 50 prelates from 60 nations.

The cardinal began by reviewing the conflicts that scourge the African continent at present. He noted that conflicts continue in Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic and Cameroon.

Conflicts are the main cause of the displacement of 16 million people in Africa, and of 6 million refugees.

After underlining the work of reconciliation that the Catholic Church promotes, Cardinal Martino mentioned the pandemic diseases that affect the continent.

«The Holy See has expressed the Catholic Church’s willingness to provide — taking into account the clarity of the objectives and methods and with the full guarantee of the dispositions of Catholic morality — its collaboration with the Global Fund initiated by the more-industrialized countries to combat pandemic diseases,» he said.

«With this collaboration, the Catholic Church in the continent — with its numerous hospitals, clinics, health centers and outpatient clinics, which also cover rural areas — will be able to address in a more effective way the many health problems connected with prevention, access to medicines, the care of patients, and the asylum of orphans,» the Vatican official said.

The cardinal observed that «the highest rate of poverty is in Africa, where 47% of the population, 300 million people, lives in conditions of abject poverty.»

He highlighted the need to develop new sources of funding, and pointed out the Holy See’s support of the British government’s International Finance Facility initiative, and proposals of the French and Brazilian governments.

Regarding shortages of food in Africa, the cardinal called for reform of the agricultural market.

«It is very important that the agricultural policies of developed countries be reformed and cease to perpetuate insurmountable barriers to access the potential agricultural exports of less developed countries,» Cardinal Martino said.

The cardinal asked for the same for trade flows. Africa, he said, is in a paradoxical situation because «40% of the private financial wealth of Africans is outside the continent,» so that «African countries, as a group, originate flows of loans toward the world system, instead of receiving them, as would be logical.»

The cardinal made a special appeal to increase exchange of «know-how in regard to technological progress, from the rich countries that have it to the poor.»

He also insisted that «the objective of an authentic collaboration must be to make Africa the protagonist of its own development.»

Cardinal Martino concluded by specifying that the good news for Africa comes from the Church.

«Wherever one goes,» he said, «in the heart of Africa — in hospitals, in health centers, in schools and centers of formation, in refugee camps and those for the displaced, in prisons and in other social areas — the Church is always present, by the side of the weakest, fulfilling its preferential option for the poor.»

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