Pope's Video Message to the 'Expo of Ideas' in Milan

“An attitude of protection is not an exclusive commitment of Christians; it concerns everyone”

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We translate below the Video-Message sent by Pope Francis on the occasion of the event “Expo of Ideas in Milan, with the participation of 500 national and international experts, organized by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forest Policies in collaboration with Expo Milan 2015.

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Good morning to you all, women and men, who are gathered today to reflect on the theme: “Nourish the Planet, Energy for Life.”

On the occasion of my visit to FAO I recalled how, beyond interest “for the production, availability of food and access to it, climate change, agricultural commerce,” which are crucial inspirational questions, “the first concern must be the person himself, all those who lack daily food and have stopped thinking of life, of family and social relations, and struggle only to survive” (Address to FAO, November 24, 2014).

Today, in fact, despite the many organizations and different interventions of the international community on nutrition, we live what Pope John Paul II pointed out as the “paradox of abundance.” In fact, there is food for all, but not all can eat, while waste, discarding and excessive consumption and the use of foods for other ends are before our eyes. This is the paradox! There are few subjects on which so many sophisms are displayed as that of hunger; and few arguments so susceptible of being manipulated by the data, by statistics, by the needs of national security, by corruption and by a painful recalling of the economic crisis” (Ibid.).

To overcome the temptation of sophisms – that nominalism of thought that goes beyond, beyond, beyond , but never touches the reality – to overcome this temptation, I suggest three concrete attitudes.

1)    To go from urgencies to priorities

Have a look and a heart orientated not to an emergency pragmatism, which always reveals itself as a provisional proposal, but to a determined orientation in resolving the structural causes of poverty. Let us remember that the root of all evils is inequity (Cf. Evangelii gaudium, 202). I wish to repeat to you what I wrote in Evangelii gaudium: “No to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not news when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? (Ibid., 53). This is the fruit of the law of competition by which the fittest the better over the weakest. Pay attention: here we are not only before the logic of exploitation, but before that of discarding; in fact, “the excluded are not only excluded or exploited, but rejected, they are leftovers” (Ibid., 53).

Therefore, if we really want to resolve the problems and not lose ourselves in sophisms, it is necessary to resolve the root of all the evils, which is inequity. To do this, there are some priority choices to be made: to give up the absolute autonomy of the markets and of financial speculation and to act first of all on the structural causes of inequity.

2)    Be witnesses of charity

“Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good.” We must convince ourselves that charity “is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)” (Ibid. 205).

Therefore, from whence must a healthy economic policy come? To what is a genuine politician committed? What are the pillars of one who is called to administer public affairs? This answer is precise: the dignity of the human person and the common good. Unfortunately, however, these two pillars, which should structure economic policy, often “seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for true and integral development. Please, be courageous and do not be afraid to be questioned on political and economic plans with a wider meaning of life because this helps you to “truly serve the common good” and will give you the strength to “multiply and render more accessible to all the good of this world” (Ibid.).

3)    Custodians and not owners of the earth

I recall again as I already did to FAO, a phrase I heard many years ago from an elderly peasant: “God always forgives offenses, abuses; God always forgives. Men forgive sometimes. The earth never forgives! Protect Sister Earth, Mother Earth, so that she will not respond with destruction” (Address to FAO, November 24, 2014).

In face of the goods of the earth we are called “never to lose sight of the origin, of the end of such goods, in order to bring about an equitable and solidaristic world,” states the Social Doctrine of the Church (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 174). The earth has been entrusted to us to be able to be a mother to us, capable of giving each one what is necessary to live. I once heard a beautiful thing: the Earth is not an inheritance that we received from our parents, but a loan that our children make to us, so that we will protect it, make it go forward and return it to them. The earth is generous and does not let one who protects it lack anything. The earth, which is mother for all, asks for respect and not violence or, worst still, the arrogance of owners. We must give it back improved to our children — protect it, because it is a loan that they made to us. An attitude of protection is not an exclusive commitment of Christians; it concerns everyone. I entrust to you all what I said during the opening Mass of my ministry as Bishop of Rome: “I would like to ask, please, all those who occupy roles of responsibility in the economic, political or social realm, and all men and women of good will: we are custodians of creation, of God’s plan inscribed in nature, custodians of the other, of the environment; let us not let the signs of destruction and death accompany our journey in this our world! […] We must not be afraid of goodness, better still, of tenderness.” We must protect the earth not only with goodness but also with tenderness.

See then the three attitudes that I offer you to overcome the temptations of sophisms, of nominalism, of those who seek to do something but without the concreteness of life. Choose from the priority: the dignity of the person; be men and women witnesses of charity; be not afraid to protect the earth, which is mother of all.

I ask you all to pray for me: I need it. And I invoke upon you God’s blessing. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT.

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