PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE
10-11 November 2003
Reaching the conclusion of these two intense days of work, I feel the need to express to each one of you the sentiments of my deepest gratitude for your impassioned participation, for your quality contributions, for the witness offered in the exercise of a responsibility that, in the presence of diverse positions, gave expression to a fruitful and respectful dialogue. I thank above all those who presided over the various working sessions of our Seminar and those who introduced the various arguments discussed. A particular thanks to the Ministers of the Italian government who intervened, providing not merely formal contributions.
I must confess to you that I was a little bit afraid that our Seminar would become victim to the climate of animosity and ideological confrontation that often characterizes the GMO debate. Thanks to you, it was not so; I must also say that for the entire period of our proceedings there was a climate of calmness and mutual listening.
In this particular circumstance, the Church, which, as each of you knows well, often takes the role of teacher, has become your pupil, attentive and diligent in listening and learning from you. Listening and paying attention to what has been discovered by science, what is promised by productive organisms, what is valued by civil society associations, what has been decided, at different levels, by political leaders, is, for the Church, one of the inevitable conditions for the exercise of that religious, ethical-cultural and pastoral discernment that are a part of her duties. At the conclusion of our work, I can affirm that this methodological formulation has been particularly effective in addressing the complex and difficult theme of GMOs. Such a methodology, in fact, permitted us to gather the maximum amount of information that allows us to avoid the "short-circuiting" which often affects those who, when addressing GMOs, have a lack of knowledge or an excess of prejudice.
The Seminar was a first moment of study within a plan that the Holy See intends, with prudence, serenity and in the truth, to follow in order to meet the multiple and diffuse expectations present in the Church, in the scientific world and, in general, in our society. Obviously the Holy See does not have the intention to remain a pupil in a permanent state of learning. It will reach a time when it will wear the robe of "Mater et Magistra", with the exercise of a responsibility in which it will not be less faithful to its religious and moral mission to carry the light of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to all human situations where the "well-being", spiritual and material, of men is concerned, above all to promote the unified and complete development of the poor, whom the Church loves with a love that is not exclusive or excluding but certainly preferential.
After the phase of evaluation of the results of this Seminar, which, I presume, will take a fair amount of time, this Dicastery will do all that is necessary not to miss the chance to offer its contribution to enlighten consciences, so that plant biotechnologies will be an opportunity for all and not a threat, in the political and juridical sector, to renew solidarity in commercial relations among nations, with environmental and health security for all, for an intense rediscovery among the scientific world, civil society and political leaders, at the national and international levels.
This Seminar has made us understand that the GMO field will not be abandoned and that it needs even more attention. It is therefore necessary to continue to work: this Pontifical Council encourages everyone to do so and proposes to do so itself, with availability and a spirit of service. This very day the Catholic Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of St. Martin of Tours, the saint who shared his cloak with a beggar. His lesson of loving sharing remains an example for all of us, called to devote ourselves to the high and magnanimous causes of the promotion of the whole man and of each man.
Thank you and may God bless you!
Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino