In fight against hunger, Pope says ‘beautiful words’ must lead to collective action

Francis at podium CNA Pope Francis meets with Italian youth in St. Peter's Square on August 12, 2018. | CNA

Feeding the hungry requires combined action and political will to provide real help for the poor, Pope Francis has said.


In an Oct. 16 letter marking World Food Day, Pope Francis said that words needed become actions in the effort to eliminate poverty and hunger.


"We do indeed have the adequate means and framework so that beautiful words and good wishes may become an action plan of substance that leads effectively to the eradication of hunger in our world," the Pope said Tuesday.


"To this end we need joint efforts, upright hearts, and persistent concern to firmly and resolutely make the other's problem one's own."


There are "immense obstacles" to solving problems, and barriers that are "the fruit of indecision or delays, and a lack of enthusiasm on the part of responsible political leaders who are often absorbed purely by electoral concerns or are focused on biased, transitory or limited perspectives," he said.


The pope's message for World Food Day was sent to José Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This year's World Food Day aims for a zero-hunger world by the year 2030.


In the letter, the pontiff advocated policies for the real needs of the poor, especially regarding levels of agricultural production, access to food markets, and other initiatives and actions. He stressed the need to realize that all countries are "equal in dignity" when it comes to making decisions.


"What is needed is the willingness to end hunger, and this ultimately will not happen without a moral conviction that is shared by all peoples and all religious persuasions, where the integral good of the person is at the heart of all initiatives and consists in 'doing to another what we would want done to ourselves'."


"We are speaking of an action based on solidarity among all nations and of the means that express the disposition of the people," he said, stressing that it is imperative for civil society, media, and educational institutions to join forces.

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"From now until 2030 we have 12 years to set up initiatives that are vigorous and consistent; not giving in to occasional spurts or intermittent and fleeting headlines, but rather facing up unremittingly to hunger and its causes in a spirit of solidarity, justice and consistency," the Pope continued.


"The poor expect from us an effective help that takes them out of their misery, not mere propositions or agreements that, after studying in a detailed way the roots of their misery, bear as their fruit only solemn events, pledges that never materialize, or impressive publications destined only to enlarge library catalogues," he said.


One in nine people around the world lack enough food to eat, according to Catholics Confront Global Poverty, a joint initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services, said that


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The initiative has expressed its frustration at the failure of the Congressional Farm Bill Conference Committee to finalize the "critical piece of legislation" and pass it into law before it expired on Sept. 30.


Catholics Confront Global Poverty is calling on Catholics and others to contact their lawmakers to ensure that "critical improvements" to international food security programs are present in the final version of the bill.


Catholic Relief Services is the largest private distributor of U.S. food aid in response to immediate emergencies including drought, flooding, or war or conflict. The agency also has land management and conservation programs to preserve and expand productive farmland.


While the pope's remarks addressed global policy priorities and solutions for poverty and hunger, Joseph Cullen, a spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus, said the fraternal organization and its 1.9 million members worldwide are among those working to fight hunger directly, both overseas and close to home.


"We often forget that many people in the developed world also experience hunger," Cullen told CNA.


The Catholic fraternity's Food for Families program in the U.S. and Canada has donated almost $14 million for food and 28 million pounds of food since its launch in 2012.


Cullen suggested that such organized volunteerism and charity is a basis for creating the will to fight hunger.


"Many of us are unaware on a practical level that families and individuals struggle and are unable to provide food for their families," he said. "By conducting and publicizing Food for Families programs in our communities, the underlying problem of hunger becomes better known and understood, helping create the will to eliminate this problem."


The Knights of Columbus' Supreme Council reimburses a portion of local councils' monetary donations to food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens. Since 2014, the organization's aid to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East has also included a food program component.


Pope Francis' message further lamented the incongruity between technological advancement and continued problems with hunger.


"In this twenty-first century that has seen considerable advances in the field of technology, science, communications and infrastructure, we ought to feel shame for not having achieved the same advances in humanity and solidarity, and so satisfy the primary needs of the most disadvantaged," he said in his World Food Day message.


"Neither can we console ourselves simply for having faced emergencies and desperate situations of those most in need. We are all called to go further. We can and we must do better for the helpless. We must move to concrete action, so that the scourge of hunger disappears completely."

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