Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to Director General Jose Graziano da Silva of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) on the occasion of World Food Day. The pontiff said, "This year World Food Day is being celebrated while the effects of the economic crisis are increasingly affecting primary needs, including the fundamental right of every person to sufficient and healthy nutrition. In particular, the position of people who live in situations of poverty and underdevelopment is worsening. The current state of affairs is similar to that which led to the establishment of FAO, and it calls on national and international institutions to work to free humankind from hunger through agricultural development and the growth of rural communities."
Speaking to a perennial problem in the world, the Pope continued, "Malnutrition is, in fact, being worsened by gradual disengagement and excessive competitiveness, factors which could make us forget that only shared solutions can adequately respond to the expectations of individuals and peoples".
The Pope also showed satisfaction in the theme chosen by the FAO for this year: "Agricultural cooperatives - key to feeding the world". He wrote, that this "does not only mean supporting cooperatives as a different form of economic and social organisation, but also seeing them as a real tool for international action. The experience of many countries shows, in fact, that cooperatives, apart from stimulating agricultural activities, are a way to enable farmers and rural populations to participate in decision making, and an efficient means to achieve an integral development which has human beings as its foundation and goal".
"As is well known, the Catholic Church considers work and cooperative enterprises as ways to enjoy an experience of unity and solidarity capable of overcoming differences and even social conflicts between people from different groups. For this reason, with her teaching and actions the Church has always supported cooperatives, in the conviction that their activity is not limited only to the economic sphere, but contributes to the human, social, cultural and moral development of those who belong to them, and of the community of which they are part".
The Pope also spoke on "the vital role played by women, who are often called to administer the activity of cooperatives, to maintain family ties and to safeguard the precious heritage of rural knowledge and techniques". He concluded, "It is indispensable that national and international authorities provide the necessary legislation and financing to ensure that, in rural areas, cooperatives may become effective instruments of agricultural production, food security, social change and a wider improvement in living conditions. In this new context it is to be hoped that the young may look to their future with renewed confidence, while maintaining their link with agricultural work, the rural world and its traditional values".