Vatican says that access to water should be a universal right

By agency reporter
July 18, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI has backed a universal 'right to water' in a message communicated from the Vatican to an international conference on the issue of Water and Sustainable Development, taking place in Zaragoza, Spain.

Profit should not be the only reason to protect water, he declared. The 'right to water' is based on the dignity of the human person, and it is not simply an 'economic good', said the head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

Representing Pope Benedict, who is currently in Australia, Cardinal Renato Martino read his message to the conference.

It comments: "Because of the ...pressure of multiple social and economic factors, we must be conscious of the fact" that today "water must be considered "a good that must be especially protected through clear national and international policies, and used according to sensible criteria of solidarity and responsibility.

"The use of water, which is regarded as a universal and inalienable right, is related to the growing and urgent needs of people who live in destitution, taking into account the fact that limited access to potable water has repercussions on the wellbeing of an enormous number of people and is often the cause of illnesses, sufferings, conflicts, poverty and even death," the message stressed.

Pope Benedict also said that water is "a right that is based on the dignity of the human person." It is "from this perspective that positions of those who consider and treat water only as an economic good must be carefully examined," Benedict XVI continued. "Its use must be rational and solidary, fruit of a balanced synergy between the public and private sector."

The pontiff went on to mention that water is not just a material good, as it also has "religious meanings that believing humanity, especially Christianity, have developed, assigning it great value as a precious immaterial good, which always enriches man's life on this earth."

"How can one not recall in this circumstance the thought provoking message that has come to us from sacred scriptures, treating water as a symbol of purification," he said.

The Pope concluded: "The full recovery of this spiritual dimension is the guarantee and implication for an adequate approach to the ethical, political and economic problems that affect the complex management of water on the part of so many interested individuals, both in the national and international realm."

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