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Hunger is unacceptable, says pope

The right to food, says Pope Benedict XVI, is intrinsically linked to the preservation of human life. He called on heads of state gathered in Rome to overcome hunger.

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Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. read out a Message from the Holy Father during the opening session of the "High-Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bio-energy". The conference is being held at FAO headquarters from 3 to 5 June.

In his Message, the Holy Father writes that "hunger and malnutrition are unacceptable in a world which has, in fact, levels of production, resources and knowledge sufficient to put an end to such dramas and their consequences. The great challenge of today is to 'globalise', not just economic and commercial interests, but also the call for solidarity, while respecting and taking advantage of the contribution of all components of society".

To the 50 heads of State and government participating in the conference, Benedict XVI reiterates the hope he expressed before the U.N. General Assembly in April: that of overcoming "the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few".

After calling on leaders "to collaborate in an increasingly transparent way with ... organisations committed to closing the growing divide between rich and poor", the Holy Father exhorts them "to continue with structural reforms which, at the national level, are indispensable in order to face the problems of underdevelopment, of which hunger and malnutrition are direct consequences".

"Poverty and malnutrition are not a simple fatality, provoked by adverse environmental situations or by disastrous natural calamities", writes the Pope, noting at the same time that "purely technical and economic considerations must not prevail over the duties of justice towards people suffering from hunger".

The "primary right to food is intrinsically linked to the safeguarding and defence of human life", he says. "Each person has the right to life. Hence it is necessary to promote the effective implementation of this right, and peoples suffering from lack of food must be helped to become gradually capable of satisfying their own need for healthy and sufficient nourishment".

Referring to the current problem of rising prices of agricultural products, the Pope calls for the drawing-up of "new strategies to fight against poverty and to promote rural development, ... through structural reform processes which enable the challenges posed by security and by climate change to be faced".

"The global increase in agricultural production will, nonetheless, be effective only if accompanied by the effective distribution of that production, and if it is primarily destined to satisfying essential needs".

Modern technologies, notes Benedict XVI, "are not enough to meet shortfalls in food", and he goes on to mention the need for "political action which, inspired by those principles of natural law written in man's heart, protects the dignity of the individual. ... Only by protecting the person, then, is it possible to combat the main cause of hunger".

If negotiations and decisions were to take respect for human dignity into account, "it would be possible to overcome otherwise-insurmountable obstacles, and to eliminate - or at least diminish - disinterest towards the good of others. ... The defence of human dignity in international activity, even in emergencies, would also help to limit superfluity, with a view to the needs of others, and to administer the fruits of creation with justice, placing them at the disposal of all generations.

"In the light of such principles", the Pope adds in conclusion, "it is my hope that the delegations present at this meeting may take on new commitments and set themselves to pursue them with g

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