Below is a ZENIT translation of the address of the Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, at the celebration of the “National Day of the Holy See” at Milan’s Expo 2015:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am happy to take part in the National Day of the Holy See in this setting of Milan’s Expo 2015, whose title, “Feed the Planet. Energy for Life,” was received with great sensibility and attention by the Catholic Church. Continuing a long and uninterrupted tradition, the Holy See responded gladly to the invitation of the world of institutions, of work, of the economy, of science and of culture, to join the reflection on a question that is part of the concerns and initiatives in favor of the life of individuals, of peoples and of States.
The presence of the Apostolic See through its symbolic place – and it would be better to say through its “message” – wishes to give testimony of the commitment to cooperate and the desire to contribute, with ideas and facts, to the efforts geared to guaranteeing human existence and to single out new possibilities of learning and research. The hope is that all will foster greater social cohesion in the future of the human family,
For these reasons, without denying in any way that autonomy that remains an intrinsic value to every human activity (Cf. Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, 34), the Holy See believes that more ample horizons can be opened with the indispensable reference to the human person and to his desire for better conditions of life. In the expression Not only bread, those conditions are summarized that make of every human being a person that unites in his own existence a spiritual and material dimension. A person called, as Pope Francis reminds us, not only to “cultivate and protect the earth” (General Audience, June 5, 2013), but to preserve and to give continuity to the order of creation in which the subject of nutrition is fully inserted (Cf. Francis, Address to the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition, November 20, 2014, 3). The availability of food, the work in fields, the food production, the use of innovative techniques as well as the preservation of knowledge sedimented in the course of history, are aspects that are not reserved exclusively to technical solutions or to political competence and economic assessment, but need ethical principles and moral guidelines on which to found consequent choices and shared decisions.
In fact, if still today more than two billion people suffer from malnutrition, and many of them also from chronic hunger, despite decisions and programs that the International Community holds to be technically precise and able to give the answers to persons, families and children, the cause is sought first of all in the absence of the will to share – a lack of which egoisms, particular interests, conflicts, financial speculation, violation of fundamental rights, unequal participation and exclusion from decisional processes are expressions. And this list could easily continue.
Hence, a genuine shaking of consciences is necessary that determines rational and technical choices “so that all can benefit fro the fruits of the earth […] also and above all for an exigency of justice and equity and of respect towards every human being” (Francis, Address to the Participants in the 38th Session of FAO’s Conference, June 20, 2013, 1).
2. From its particular perspective the Holy See sees the vast objective of guaranteeing an adequate level of nutrition as a real need of persons and, hence, as a result of true sharing, the same rendered evident today by the participation of so many countries in Milan’s Expo 2015. However, a shared action that has as priority the reduction of the number of the hungry must foresee not only interventions in emergency situations, but activities in favor of agricultural development and their financing proportionate to the different capacities of the donors and to the needs of the beneficiaries. To give and to receive according to justice requires a formation of consciences to the needs of the other, of every neighbor, also when the problem regards the use of technologies, their transfer to more vulnerable areas and the capacity to respond to the needs of the beneficiaries, without limiting their prerogatives, rights and – not least – food habits and cultures.
Such commitment asks governments, international institutions and organizations of the civil society committed to food security to work together, preserving the diversities, but not opposing them and using dialogue as the sole concrete instrument. It is not only a question of reaffirming the importance of the different food cultures present in the different corners of the world or of preserving the value of the multiple practices connected with cultivation, but also of renewed discussion of the ways of food consumption. The reading of data and facts already makes positive signs perceived such as, for instance, the perfecting of food security through an activity of prevention in the phase of production, conservation and distribution, but also a more direct re-thinking of our lifestyles that now seem solely oriented to the “globalization of indifference” (Francis, Evangelii gaudium, 55). To make consumption adequate to the real needs avoiding waste and squandering of foods is already a guarantee of success of the strategies for food security, and above all it is one of the master ways to “globalize solidarity” (Ibid.). This is the commitment to which we are all called!
However, in the Expo’s reflections, when reference is made to the protection of the different food regimes or to the continuity of the agricultural traditions, the objective emerges clearly of singling out “what unites” peoples. It is an important strategy, capable of rendering functional to the human dimension every action that in guaranteeing every person “the daily bread” has at heart the peaceful coexistence among peoples and their integral development.
In this connection, may I be allowed an annotation that stems from a personal recollection that goes back to the years of study when I was struck by a passage of the Church’s juridical tradition, that Decree of Gratian who in 1140 went as far as to say: “Feed him who is dying of hunger, because if you haven’t fed him, you have killed him” (Dist. LXXXVI, c. 21 [ed. Friedberg]). An imperative to which that great jurist placed side by side an evangelical way, hence practical, of realization: “Do to others what you want done to you; do not do to others what you do not want done to you”(Decretum Gratiani, I, Dist. I, in princ.). It is that regola aurea [Golden Rule]present in the different cultures, creeds and religious visions that is the foundation not only of juridical situations and of individual rights, but of the natural fraternity among human beings, of their common equality, of their freedom.
3. I would like to conclude this reflection recalling also how in a context such as the Expo, religions operate “in the front line,” furnishing indications of principle and guidance — and perhaps also of warning – when they propose the image of food as offer, which Christian tradition symbolizes in the bread and the wine. An offer able to build a harmonious vision of the community and of social cohesion, which is expressed in the sense of sharing, of hospitality and, I would also say, of the mutual gift to the other, which is then every neighbor of ours. A program that even in an environment such as that which today hosts us can be a promoter of new and solidaristic relations.
We are faced with a concrete example of ways in which religions manifest the capacity of decanting thei
r teaching of the spiritual dimension in a concrete ethical dimension able to determine the pursuit of social, political and economic conditions to free from hunger the millions of human beings that are still victims of it. This presupposes in the first place the commitment to extirpate at the root the causes of food insecurity and of malnutrition that often become vehicle of opposition and painful conflicts. Religions and their traditions know well that freedom from hunger also means freedom from conflicts and the prevention of war, as the Catholic Church well reminds in the Litanies of the Saints associating in the invocation of liberation, sickness and hunger to war: “a peste, fame et bello libera nos, Domine.”
To this profound desire to which, I believe, we are all associated, is joined once again the appreciation of the Holy See for the important initiative of Milan’s Expo 2015, accompanied by the hope that its results can be as many concrete instruments to foster a healthy and peaceful dialogue between peoples and countries.
Concluding his message for the opening of the Expo May 1, Pope Francis called us to an assumption of responsibility, invoking the help of the Lord: “May He who is Love give us the true “energy for life”: love to share our bread, “our daily bread,” in peace and fraternity. And that bread and the dignity of work not be lacking to any man or woman.” Let us make these words our own.
Thank you![Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]