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Cardinal Peter Turkson
for Justice and Peace
On behalf of the Holy Father, I am pleased to greet the executives of the mining industry who have gathered together at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in order to study the principal ethical problems arising from their activities, especially in Africa and in other developing regions of the world. His Holiness also wishes to extend his greeting to everyone involved in mining activities: the workers and their families, the unions, the local communities and the various states in which mineral resources are found.
This day of reflection, promoted by Your Eminence, takes on particular importance not only because it brings together leaders of many multinational corporations involved in this sector – Christians, followers of other religions, and non-believers – but above all because it is the first occasion in which senior mining executives have come together, close to the Successor of Peter, to reflect on the importance of their human and environmental responsibilities. In other words, they wish to make a serious examination of conscience on what must be done so that their industry may offer a constant positive contribution to integral human development.
The extraction industries are seen, not always without reason, as unjustly exploiting resources and local populations, resorting even to slavery and to the forced removal of entire populations. An ancient proverb of the People of Israel says, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Jer 31:29). This warning is perennially valid; it not only alludes to the complexity of ethical questions, difficult to resolve with one answer that is valid for all, but also reminds us of the seriousness of our human actions. Mining, like many other industrial activities, has ecological and social consequences which go well beyond national borders and pass from one generation to the next.
The participants at this meeting are aware that, so as not to repeat grave errors of the past, decisions today cannot be taken solely from geological perspectives or the possible economic benefits for investors and for the states in which the companies are based. A new and more profound decision-making process is indispensable and inescapable, one which takes into consideration the complexity of the problems involved, in a context of solidarity. Such a context requires, first of all, that workers be assured of all their economic and social rights, in full accordance with the norms and recommendations of the International Labour Organization. Likewise it requires the assurance that extraction activities respect international standards for the protection of the environment. The great challenge of business leaders is to create a harmony of interests, involving investors, managers, workers, their families, the future of their children, the preservation of the environment on both a regional and international scale, and a contribution to world peace.
The present meeting may not be able to provide an answer to the many challenges which confront the mining executives in their decision-making. Nevertheless, the Holy Father prays that the meeting in your Dicastery may lead to such a process guided by moral principles which seek the good of all parties involved in the sector. This will enable the industry’s leaders to face the difficulties that arise, with special attention to miners and their families, to the surrounding population, to the environment, and to global and intergenerational solidarity. Local churches will surely wish to imitate your Pontifical Council’s solicitude, and place themselves at the service of miners, to as to help them develop an ever more integral vision of this question.
His Holiness assures all those involved in mining activities around the world of his closeness in prayer. Upon you, your co-workers, employees and workers, the Holy Father cordially invokes abundant divine blessings.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Tarcisio Card. Bertone
Secretary of State