Pope Francis: Food Crisis, Climate change and Reaching the Poor


Pope Francis recently delivered a speech to the FAO, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, following a long tradition. Recently the Pope spoke on the environment and mentioned the scandal of starvation in our day and age. Again he touched on this theme:

It is a well-known fact that current levels of production are sufficient, yet millions of people are still suffering and dying of starvation. This is truly scandalous. A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being.

According to the Pope what is most needed is a change of attitude, or ‘openness of heart’. He also connected the theme of food security, refugees and the spiritual consequences:

What is demanded of FAO, its member States, and every institution of the international community, is openness of heart. There is a need to move beyond indifference or a tendency to look the other way, and urgently to attend to immediate needs, confident that the fruits of today’s work will mature in the future. To move forward constructively and fruitfully in the different functions and responsibilities involves the ability to analyze, understand, and engage, leaving behind the temptations of power, wealth or self-interest and instead serving the human family, especially the needy and those suffering from hunger and malnutrition.We are all aware that one of the first effects of grave food crises – and not simply those caused by natural disasters or violent conflicts – is the uprooting of individuals, families and communities. The separation is a painful one; it is not limited to their lands, but extends to their entire existential and spiritual environment, threatening and at times shattering their few certainties in life.

Finally, for the first time Pope Francis mentioned ‘climate change’ as one of the factors that affects the food crisis in the world. He does so in a similar spirit as Pope Benedict XVI (here, here and here), recognizing the reality but staying away from controversial or political debates on the causes

I greet the Director-General, Professor José Graziano da Silva, whom I had occasion to meet at the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome. On that occasion he made it clear to me that the situation worldwide is particularly difficult, not only because of the economic crisis but also due to problems associated with security, the great number of continuing conflicts, climate change and the preservation of biological diversity.

Finally, in a recent homily the Pope explained what he means by poor and a preferred term oh his: “existential peripheries”. The poor certainly include the materially poor, but also the materially rich who are spiritually poor.

“The Gospel is for all! Going out toward the poor doesn’t mean that we must become paupers or some sort of ‘spiritual bums’! No, that’s not what it means! It means that we must go towards the flesh of the suffering Jesus but Jesus’ flesh also suffers in those who don’t know it, with their studies, their intelligence, their culture. We must go there! That’s why I like to use the expression ‘go to the outskirts’, the existential peripheries. Everyone, all of them, [who suffer] from physical and real poverty to intellectual poverty, which is also real. All the outskirts, all the intersections of paths: go there. And there sow the seed of the Gospel by word and by witness.”

“This means that we must have courage. … I want to tell you something. In the Gospel there’s that beautiful passage that tells us of the shepherd who, on returning to the sheepfold and realizing that a sheep is missing, leaves the 99 and goes to look for it, to look for the one. But, brothers and sisters, we have one. It’s the 99 who we’re missing! We have to go out, we must go to them! In this culture—let’s face it—we only have one. We are the minority. And do we feel the fervour, the apostolic zeal to go out and find the other 99? This is a big responsibility and we must ask the Lord for the grace of generosity and the courage and the patience to go out, to go out and proclaim the Gospel.”

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