VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2006 ( It is not possible to talk about peace where people are suffering hunger, says Benedict XVI, who at the same time condemned the huge sums spent worldwide on weapons.

This was the Pope's conclusion during an address he gave today to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

Peace "is not merely the silence of arms," the Holy Father said. "One cannot speak of peace in situations where human beings are lacking even the basic necessities for living with dignity."

"My thoughts turn to the limitless multitudes who are suffering from starvation," the Pontiff told the representatives of countries that have diplomatic relations with the Holy See. "They cannot be said to be living in peace, even though they are not in a state of war; indeed they are defenseless victims of war."

Benedict XVI referred to the "distressing images of huge camps throughout the world of displaced persons and refugees, who are living in makeshift conditions in order to escape a worse fate, yet are still in dire need."

"Are these human beings not our brothers and sisters?" he asked. "Do their children not come into the world with the same legitimate expectations of happiness as other children?"

Scourge of trafficking

Benedict XVI then referred to "all those who are driven by unworthy living conditions to emigrate far from home and family in the hope of a more humane life."

"Nor can we overlook the scourge of human trafficking, which remains a disgrace in our time," he added.

"A greater effort is needed from the entire diplomatic community in order to determine in truth, and to overcome with courage and generosity, the obstacles still standing in the way of effective, humane solutions," the Pope indicated.

"And truth demands that none of the prosperous states renounce their own responsibility and duty to provide help through drawing more generously upon their own resources," he continued.

"On the basis of available statistical data, it can be said that less than half of the immense sums spent worldwide on armaments would be more than sufficient to liberate the immense masses of the poor from destitution," Benedict XVI explained.

"This challenges humanity's conscience," he insisted.

The Bishop of Rome concluded by proposing a "common commitment to truth" which "can and must give new hope" to "peoples living below the poverty line, more as a result of situations to do with international political, commercial and cultural relations than as a result of circumstances beyond anyone's control."