The leaders of the bishops’ conferences of G8 countries have called on the world leaders gathering at the G8 Summit in Italy to take “concerted action” to protect the poor and vulnerable of the world during the economic crisis.
Signatories to the letter included U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Cardinal Francis George, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops President James Weisgerber, and the Archbishops of Freisburg, Genoa, Paris, and Tokyo.
The prelates quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown before the G20 London meeting, which said that aid and assistance to less developed countries must not become a “victim” of the economic crisis.
“Ironically poor people have contributed the least to the economic crisis facing our world, but their lives and livelihoods are likely to suffer the greatest devastation because they struggle at the margins in crushing poverty,” the bishops’ conference presidents wrote. “In light of this fact, the G8 nations should meet their responsibility to promote dialogue with other powerful economies to help prevent further economic crises.”
They encouraged “deepening partnerships” with developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to help people become “active agents” in their own development.
“In a particular way it is important to strengthen peacekeeping so that armed conflicts do not continue to rob countries of the resources needed for development,” they added.
The archbishops and bishops also said that poor countries that are least at fault for the human sources of climate change face the most risks from its consequences.
“As Catholic pastors and teachers, we have a special concern for how climate change impacts the poor,” they wrote, endorsing “concrete commitments” to “mitigate” further climate change.
“Protecting the poor and the planet are not competing causes; they are moral priorities for all people living in this world.”
“The G8 Summit takes place in the shadow of a global economic crisis, but its actions can help bring a light of hope to our world,” the prelates continued. “By asking first how a given policy will affect the poor and the vulnerable, you can help assure that the common good of all is served. As a human family we are only as healthy as our weakest members.”
They closed their letter to G8 leaders with prayers for the summit to be blessed by a “spirit of collaboration.”
Responding to the bishops’ letter, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote to signatories Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols and Archbishop of Edinburgh and St. Andrews Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien. He expressed his shared commitment to “development issues.”
“When we met earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI and I agreed that there is a moral imperative that world leaders maintain and fulfill our commitments to the world's poorest, particularly during the global downturn.”
Prime Minister Brown said the agreements at the London G20 Summit included $50 billion in support of the poorest countries. Maintaining aid commitments to reduce global poverty and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals would help alleviate the present economic crisis, he added.
The prime minister said he was determined to make progress on health issues, especially maternal mortality.
“We must also ensure that recent gains for development are not lost,” he wrote, also noting his appreciation for the Catholic Church’s interest in climate change.
“Eradicating poverty in developing countries and tackling climate change are inextricably linked,” he said.