On Tuesday morning in Rome, 50 leaders from around the world gathered at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The heads of state listened as the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone read a message from the Pope, which stressed that the world is more than capable of providing enough food for all.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote 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 solution, which the Pope said is also a challenging one, “is to 'globalize,' 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."
Benedict XVI also repeated his hope that 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 ... organizations committed to closing the growing divide between rich and poor," the Holy Father said that they must also “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," wrote 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 underlying motivation for ensuring the “primary right to food” is the “safeguarding and defense of human life," the Pontiff wrote. "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."
The Pope also tackled the dramatic rise in food prices, saying that the solution lies in “new strategies to fight against poverty and to promote rural development.” Relating this call to the topic of the summit, Pope Benedict noted that these initiatives must involve “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," he said.
Some maintain that technology will be able to solve the food supply issue, but Pope Benedict said that these agricultural advances "are not enough to meet shortfalls in food."
In addition to technology, leaders need to take "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 Holy Father concluded his letter by saying, "In the light of such principles, it is my hope that the delegations present at this meeting may take on new commitments and set themselves to pursue them with great determination. The Catholic Church, for her part, wishes to unite herself to these efforts."