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Pope Francis: Starvation in a world of plenty “scandalous”

©Osservatore Romano
General of the Papal Audience held in the Sala Clementina with FAO delegation and Pope Francis

20 June 2013, Vatican City/Rome, Italy – Pope Francis lauded participants in the 38th FAO Conference for working together against hunger but 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.

The Pope received the delegates, who represented countries from every region of the world, in keeping with a tradition that began 60 years ago. He thanked and encouraged FAO for its work. 

Saying the global economic crisis could not “continue to be used as an alibi,” the pontiff added, “The crisis will not be completely over until situations and living conditions are examined in terms of the human person and human dignity.” 

The pope 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 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,” Rahimi said. 

"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. 

“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.

The FAO Conference is the organization’s highest governing body. Delegates represent FAO member countries, which number 194 in all.