Pope Francis: "The Hungry Ask for Dignity, Not Charity"

Warns of Lack of Solidarity During Address to the F.A.O.’s 2nd International Conference on Nutrition

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“Feed the hungry to save life on the planet,” was Pope Francis’ appeal during his visit, this morning, to the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome. The Pope’s visit coincided with the Second International Conference on Nutrition, which is being attended by representatives of 170 countries from around the world.

“The overall unity of purpose and of action, and above all the spirit of brotherhood, can be decisive in finding appropriate solutions,“ the Pope said. He also assured that the Church “seeks always to be attentive and watchful regarding the spiritual and material welfare of the people, especially those who are marginalised or excluded, to ensure their safety and dignity.”

The Pope also explained that the destinies of nations are more intertwined than ever, like the members of one same family. However, he warned, “we live in a time in which the relations between nations are too often damaged by mutual suspicion, that at times turns into forms of military and economic aggression, undermining friendship between brothers and rejecting or discarding what is already excluded.”

Those who lack daily bread or a decent job, he continued, are well aware of this.

Pope Francis expressed his desire for the formulation of new commitments during this conference. “I hope that, in the formulation of these commitments, the States are inspired by the conviction that the right to food can only be ensured if we care about the actual subject, that is, the person who suffers the effects of hunger and malnutrition.”

In this connection, the Holy Father acknowledged that, “perhaps we have paid too little heed to those who are hungry.” For this reason, “it his painful to see “ that the “that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities”, the “primacy of profit.”

The 77-year-old Pontiff sternly warned that , “while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain, at the street corner, and ask to be recognised as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. They ask us for dignity, not for charity.” This phrase sparked loud applause among those present.

The Holy Father went on to say that the development and labor plans of international organizations should take into account the desire that in all circumstances the fundamental rights of the human person are respected, in this case, the hungry.

The interest in production, in the availability of foods and access to them, climate change, agricultural commerce “should certainly inspire the rules and technical measures,” he said. However, Pope Francis noted that the first concern must be the person himself, those who lack daily food and have ceased to think of life, of family and social relations, and who struggle only to survive.

‘The Paradox of Plenty’

Referring to his predecessor, Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis explained that at the opening of the First Conference on Nutrition in 1992, he warned the international community against the risk of the “paradox of plenty”: there is food for all, but not all can eat. Sadly, lamented the Pope, this “paradox” continues to be present.

Moreover, he warned about the challenge of the lack of solidarity, which he  said he suspected is subconsciously a word we want to take “out of the dictionary.” His words again elicited the public’s applause. “When there is a lack of solidarity in a country, the effects are felt throughout the world,” he explained. Just as human beings become aware of being partly responsible for the plan of creation, become capable of mutual respect,” so do States “understood as a community of persons and peoples, are required to act concertedly, to be willing to help each other through the principles and norms offered by international law.”

The Holy Father pointed out that the Natural Law speaks a language that all can understand: love, justice, peace, elements that are inseparable from one another. Pope Francis stressed that States and international institutions also “are called to welcome and nurture these values – love, justice, peace – and this must be done with a spirit of dialogue and mutual listening.”

Concluding his address, Pope Francis asked God to “bless all those who, with different responsibilities, place themselves at the service of those who experience hunger and who assist them with concrete gestures of closeness.” Likewise, he appealed to the international community, that it “might hear the call of this Conference and consider it an expression of the common conscience of humanity: feed the hungry, save life on the planet.”

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Rocío Lancho García

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