The Holy See
back up


New York
Monday, 20 September 2004


Mr President,

It is my honour to express the support of the Holy See and of His Holiness Pope John Paul II personally for the important initiative under discussion at this meeting, promoted by the President of Brazil and already supported by numerous Governments represented here.

I should like to offer some brief reflections on the subject.

1. We are all aware of the gravity of the problem of hunger in the world. The Holy See is particularly concerned about it, and wishes to assure you of the full commitment of the Catholic Church to eradicate this scourge from the world.

Every Christian, in fact, is impelled to adopt Christ's attitude towards those without food: "Misereor super turbam, quia... nec habent quod manducent". "I have compassion for the crowd, because... they have nothing to eat" (Mk 8: 2).

For its part, the Holy See has always supported the numerous individual and collective endeavours intended to resolve this issue. Here it is important to remember the vast humanitarian outreach of Catholic institutions all over the world, especially in the missions and in very poor countries.

2. In this area, the Holy See also supports the initiatives of those agencies of the U.N., especially FAO, IFAD and WFP, that are directly involved in action to combat hunger and nutritional insecurity.

In my address to the FAO in 1996, I outlined the principles governing the Holy See's position on these matters, and they include respecting the dignity of the human person, putting into effect the principle of solidarity, applying the principle of the universal destination of the earth's goods and promoting peace.

In that same year, 1996, every country made solemn commitments, which were further consolidated during the celebrations to mark the arrival of the Third Millennium. These commitments, made by all Heads of State and Heads of Government, with the support of the Holy See, were published in the 1996 Report of the World Food Summit and, subsequently, in the 2000 U.N. Millennium Declaration.

3. In this way an Alliance was formed against world hunger, but it gradually became clear that there were insufficient funds available for implementing a programme of world nutritional security.

Laudable efforts have been made to respond to emergencies caused by war or natural disasters. But the problem is much more extensive.

The struggle against hunger, and also against thirst for that matter, goes well beyond dealing with emergencies:  it has to address a whole series of complex factors such as, for example, the need to invest in the human capital of local populations (I am thinking of education and health issues), to equip them with appropriate technology and to guarantee equity in international commerce.

Nevertheless, the magnitude of the task must not discourage us from working out a step-by-step programme aimed at eradicating hunger and thirst throughout the world.

4. So let there be more research into ways of "increasing the availability of resources to address these challenges", as well as "examining alternative sources of finance for development" (Letter of the President of Brazil to His Holiness Pope John Paul II, 25 June 2004).

Indeed, one of the greatest difficulties in implementing the above-mentioned programme is the matter of finance. First of all, we should remind all the donor countries of their commitment to increase the aid budget to 0.7 percent of the GNP of each State.

Then it will be possible to seek innovative approaches such as those to be discussed here, taking into account the agreement reached at Monterrey and offering support for particular initiatives, such as the International Finance Facility.

5. The Holy See, for its part, promises to support these endeavours. The task is immense, as is the fight against disease and destitution in general.

Let us renew our commitment to give the necessities of life to every human creature, willed by God with an immense dignity, in his own image and likeness.

I spoke of destitution rather than poverty, because poverty will always be with us in different forms, however hard we work to overcome it.

In this regard, the words of a great Bishop of your Country, Mr President, never cease to ring true; it was the late Archbishop Helder Cámara who said: "The poor have the necessities of life and nothing more, but the destitute do not even have that much".

The necessities of life are what we must provide for every human creature!

*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.39 p.6.