Pope Denounces Rich-Poor Divide

Calls It an Offense Against Human Dignity

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The growing disparity between the rich and the poor is an offense against human dignity, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today during his weekly general audience, which coincided with the World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty. “How many populations still live in conditions of extreme poverty,” the Holy Father said to the crowd of 50,000 in St. Peter’s Square.

He added: “The disparity between rich and poor has become more evident and more disturbing, even within the most economically advanced nations.

“This worrying situation appeals to the conscience of mankind because the conditions being suffered by such a large number of people are such as to offend the dignity of human beings and, as a consequence, to compromise the authentic and harmonious progress of the world community.

“I encourage, then, an increase in efforts to eliminate the causes of poverty and the tragic consequences deriving from it.”

The world day was begun Oct. 17, 1987, by Father Joseph Wresinski (1917-1988), founder of the ATD Fourth World movement. On this day he placed a commemorative stone in the Trocadero Plaza (renamed the Plaza of Human Rights and Liberties) in Paris “for the victims of poverty.”

The initiative was taken up by the United Nations in 1992 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

This year’s official celebration took place today in the evening at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, around a replica of the stone in Paris.

On the original stone and the replica it says: “Wherever men and women are condemned to live in poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty.”

The Roman stone also has on it a quote from Pope John Paul II: “Never again discriminations, exclusions, oppressions, scorn for the poor and for the lowly.”

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