In his audiences and public liturgical duties this week, Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, has highlighted the concerns of World Food Day and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
The focus on global poverty is an annual event recognized by the United Nations. Certain peoples, the pontiff said, "still live in conditions of extreme poverty. The disparity between rich and poor has become more evident and more disturbing, even within the most economically advanced nations."
He continued: "This worrying situation appeals to the conscience of [hu]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 Pope also talked earlier in the week about the elimination of hunger, and the role Christians should play in it, on the occasion of World Food Day, an annual event organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) every 16 October.
With the theme chosen for this year's Day, "the right to food," wrote the Pope in his WFD message, the FAO "is inviting the international community to face up to one of the most serious challenges of our time: freeing from hunger millions of human beings, whose lives are in danger because of a lack of daily bread."
He declared: "We must realize that the efforts made thus far do not seem to have significantly diminished the number of hungry people in the world," the Pope observes, "despite the fact that everyone recognizes that food is a primary right. ... The available data shows that the lack of fulfillment of the right to food is due not only to natural causes but, above all, to situations provoked by human behavior which lead to a generalized social, economic and human deterioration."
The Pope went on to recall how "an ever greater number of people - because of poverty or bloody conflicts - find themselves obliged to abandon their homes and their loved ones in order to seek sustenance outside their own lands, Despite international agreements, many of them are rejected" he adds, highlighting the "pressing" need for a concrete undertaking in which "all members of society, both in the individual and the international spheres, feel committed to cooperating in order to make the right to food possible."
The lack of fulfillment of this right, he said, "constitutes an evident violation of human dignity and of the rights deriving therefrom."
Benedict then praised the FAO's expert understanding of "the problems of the agricultural world and of food insecurity, and its proven capacity to present plans and programmes for their solution" as well as the organization's "acute sensitivity to the aspirations of those calling for more human living conditions."
"The Catholic Church," he concluded, "feels closely involved ... in this task and, through her various institutions, wishes to continue collaboration in order to support the desires and hopes of those individuals and peoples towards whom the activity of the FAO is directed."