VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2005 ( Benedict XVI said hunger is one of the greatest scandals of our time and proposed as a solution an integral development that would address a primary cause: egoism.

The Pope addressed the issue in a message to Jacques Diouf, director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, on the occasion of World Food Day, observed Oct. 16.

Among other things, the papal letter underlines the Holy See's appreciation for the FAO, which this year is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and says that the occasion "reminds us that hunger and malnutrition are, unfortunately, among the most serious scandals that still affect the life of the human family."

"In fact," notes the papal message, "famine does not depend only on geographic and climactic situations, or on unfavorable circumstances linked to harvests.

"It is also caused by man himself and by his egoism which is translated in deficiencies in the social organization, the rigidity of economic structures too often geared only to profit, and also practices against human life and ideological systems that reduce the person, deprived of his fundamental dignity, to but an instrument."

According to the Bishop of Rome, "True global development, organized and integral, which is desired by all, calls on the contrary to know in an objective manner the human situations, to define the true causes of poverty and to provide concrete answers, with an appropriate formation of persons and communities as a priority."

Helpful dialogue

The theme of this year's World Food Day is "Agriculture and Dialogue of Cultures."

Benedict XVI highlighted "dialogue as an effective instrument to create the conditions for food security."

"Dialogue calls for combining the efforts of persons and nations, for the service of the common good," he wrote. "Convergence among all the sectors, associated to an effective cooperation, can contribute to build 'true peace,' allowing to overcome the recurrent temptations of conflict because of different cultural views, ethnic groups or levels of development."

The Pope continued: "Technical progress will not be really effective unless it finds its place in a wider perspective, where man occupies the center, concerned with taking into account the totality of his needs and aspirations, because, as Scripture says, 'man does not live by bread alone.'"

The Holy Father contended that the FAO's objectives of ending hunger will be attained only if "the protection of human dignity, origin and end of fundamental rights, becomes the criterion that inspires and orients all efforts."

On Monday, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, spoke at the FAO headquarters in Rome. He appealed to the representatives of 188 countries to give priority to the allocation of funds to the struggle against hunger and not to wars.