Pope Francis today made his first visit to the Rome-based United Nations organization that fights hunger, the World Food Programme, making a call in his address to recognize those who suffer from poverty and hunger as more than a statistic.
“We live in an interconnected world marked by instant communications,” the Pope reflected, noting that communication technologies, “by bringing us face to face with so many tragic situations, can help, and have helped, to mobilize responses of compassion and solidarity.”
“Paradoxically though,” he said, “this apparent closeness created by the information highway seems daily to be breaking down. […] We are bombarded by so many images that we see pain, but do not touch it; we hear weeping, but do not comfort it; we see thirst but do not satisfy it. All those human lives turn into one more news story. While the headlines may change, the pain, the hunger and the thirst remain; they do not go away.”
The Holy Father praised the role that organizations such as WFP play in this reality, saying that we “cannot be satisfied simply with being aware of the problems faced by many of our brothers and sisters. It is not enough to offer broad reflections or engage in endless discussion, constantly repeating things everyone knows. We need to ‘de-naturalize’ extreme poverty, to stop seeing it as a statistic rather than a reality. Why? Because poverty has a face! It has the face of a child; it has the face of a family; it has the face of people, young and old.”
Poverty isn’t something natural, the result of “blind fate,” with no remedy, he stated.
And if “hunger” “food” and “violence” are just concepts, the Pontiff warned, if we don’t see those suffering as real people, then “we run the risk of bureaucratizing the sufferings of others. Bureaucracies shuffle papers; compassion deals with people.”
The Pope stated that in this regard, “we have much to do.”
“In addition to everything already being done,” he said, “we need to work at ‘denaturalizing’ and ‘debureaucratizing’ the poverty and hunger of our brothers and sisters.”
There is enough
In this regard, the Pope spoke against an uninformed acceptance of food shortage, as well as the facility with which weapons are transported, while food does not reach those who need it.
“The fact that today, well into the 21st century, so many people suffer from this scourge [of food shortage] is due to a selfish and wrong distribution of resources, to the ‘merchandizing’ of food,” he said. “The earth, abused and exploited, continues in many parts of the world to yield its fruits, offering us the best of itself. The faces of the starving remind us that we have foiled its purposes. We have turned a gift with a universal destination into a privilege enjoyed by a select few. We have made the fruits of the earth – a gift to humanity – commodities for a few, thus engendering exclusion.”
The Pope particularly lamented the hunger of those in war zones and conflicts, decrying what he called a “strange paradox”:
“Whereas forms of aid and development projects are obstructed by involved and incomprehensible political decisions, skewed ideological visions and impenetrable customs barriers, weaponry is not. It makes no difference where arms come from; they circulate with brazen and virtually absolute freedom in many parts of the world. As a result, wars are fed, not persons. In some cases, hunger itself is used as a weapon of war. The death count multiplies because the number of people dying of hunger and thirst is added to that of battlefield casualties and the civilian victims of conflicts and attacks.”
The Pope noted that consciences are anesthetized and said it is “urgent to debureaucratize everything that keeps humanitarian assistance projects from being realized.”
The Holy Father as well assured the support of the Church in the fight against hunger, saying that humanity must respond to this need.
“‘I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink’. These words embody one of the axioms of Christianity. Independent of creeds and convictions, they can serve as a golden rule for our peoples,” he said. “A people plays out its future by its ability to respond to the hunger and thirst of its brothers and sisters. In that ability to come to the aid of the hungry and thirsty, we can measure the pulse of our humanity.”
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-address-to-world-food-program-executive-board/