Speaking via video-link at the Expo of Ideas on Saturday February 7 in Milan, Pope Francis said that the structural causes of inequality need be eliminated, that charity needs to be recognised as a source of common good, and that the Earth has to be nurtured.
Citing a speech he had made during his recent visit to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Pope recalled that, when faced with critical issues such as climate change and changes in agricultural output, "our first concern must be the individual: the people who do not eat every day and who have stopped thinking about life, family and social relationships, and who are fighting just to survive".
Reminding his listeners of the words of John Paul II, Pope Francis stated that, “the ‘paradox of abundance’ persists: there is food for everyone, yet not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes. "And few other subjects run as much risk of being manipulated by statistics or corruption, or being blamed on the economic crisis, as these", he warned.
The Pope urged those gathered at Hangar Bicocca in Milan to adopt three practical approaches.
First, he asked for a move away from emergencies in favor of setting real priorities, focusing on the root of all evils: "We must move away from the domination of the markets and of financial speculation, and address our best efforts to the structural causes of inequality”.
Politics, dignity, and the common good
Secondly, the importance of charity needs to be recognized. "While often denigrated, politics remains one of the highest forms of charity, because it seeks the common good. We need to convince ourselves that charity is not only the principle behind our micro-relationships, such as family, friendships, and small groups, but also behind our macro-relationships, including those in the social, economic, and political spheres.
“The dignity of the human individual and the common good are the underpinnings of economic policy.
"Be brave,” said the pope, “and do not be afraid of looking at the wider consequences of political decisions. This will help you to truly serve the common good and give you the strength to make the wealth of this world accessible to all".
The Pope pointed out that we are the custodians and not the masters of the Earth.
"I recall once again,” he said, “as I did at FAO, something an old peasant said to me many years ago: God always forgives. We sometimes forgive, but the land never forgives. We must care for Mother Earth so that she doesn’t respond with destruction."
“As we are taught by the social doctrine of the Church, we must not lose sight of the origin and purpose of the world’s natural resources, so as to create a fair world.
“We have not inherited the earth from our parents, but it has been lent to us by our children”, said the Pope. “The land is generous, and supplies everything necessary to those who take care of it. The role of custodian of the Earth is not a commitment that applies only to christians, but to everyone."
“I would like to ask all those in positions of responsibility in the political, economic and social spheres, and all men and women of good will: Be custodians of creation, and do not let the marks of destruction and death accompany our journey in this world. We must care for the Earth not only with goodness, but also with tenderness."