Don't use global crisis to shirk helping poor Pope Francis tells UN food agency

(Photo: Reuters / Stefano Rellandini)Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican June 19, 2013.

The current global crisis cannot "continue to be used as an alibi" for people, States and institutions to shirk their responsibility in helping the poor and hungry of the world, Pope Francis has said.

The pontiff was speaking at the Vatican on Thursday while the 38th United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization Conference was sitting in Rome and he received some of the delegates.

"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," said Francis.

While he praised countries for working together against hunger, the Pope urged countries to "move beyond indifference" in policies that exclude the most vulnerable and exacerbate hunger and poverty in the world.

"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," Pope Francis said, during an audience at the Vatican.

Francis received the delegates, who represented countries from every region of the world in the 194 in the FAO, in keeping with a tradition that began 60 years ago.

"The crisis will not be completely over until situations and living conditions are examined in terms of the human person and human dignity," said Pope Francis

He warned that people and their dignity risked "turning into vague abstractions in the face of issues like the use of force, war, malnutrition, marginalization, the violation of basic liberties, and financial speculation, which presently affects the price of food, treating it like any other merchandise and overlooking its primary function."

"There is a need to oppose the shortsighted economic interests and the mentality of power of a relative few who exclude the majority of the world's peoples, generating poverty and marginalization and causing a breakdown in society."

Mohammad Asif Rahimi, Chairperson of the FAO Conference and Afghanistan's Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock was joined by FAO Director-General Josè Graziano da Silva from Mexico and hundreds of representatives of FAO member countries from every region of the world.

"It was inspiring when His Holiness stated that a way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth in a fair and just manner," said Rahimi.

"FAO, in turn, is counting on the impact that Pope Francis and leaders of all religious faiths can have in mobilizing governments, organizations, companies and communities to take action and defend the right to food of those who are most vulnerable," Rahimi added.

"The fight against hunger must have no color, no religion, no political affiliation.

"Ending hunger is absolutely necessary if we want a truly sustainable and more secure future. It makes political and economic sense, but morally and ethically, it is also the right thing to do," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva added.

He noted that two weeks earlier, Pope Francis spoke out against the culture of waste that leads to the loss of 1.3 billion tons of food every year.

The pontiff said that it was 'like stealing food from poor people', and he was right. But we are also squandering entire generations of lives to starvation, inadequate nutrition and poor health. And this is hurting us all," the FAO head said.

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