Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Bishops to G8: "Bring a Light of Hope"

With next week's G8 Summit in L'Aquila soon to dominate the news-cycle, the heads of the episcopal conferences of the eight industrial superpowers sent a joint letter to their nations' leaders calling for the group to "take steps" toward concrete action on "reduc[ing] poverty and address[ing] climate change":
Our moral tradition commits the Church to protecting human life and dignity, especially of the poorest, most vulnerable members of the human family. In the faces of poor persons the Catholic Church sees the face of Christ whom we serve in countries throughout the world.

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. 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. In addition, they should meet their commitments to increase Official Development Assistance in order to reduce global poverty and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially in African countries. This requires deepening partnerships with developing countries so that their peoples can be active agents in their own development, participating in political, governmental, economic and social reforms that serve the common good of all. 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.

In a similar way, poor countries and peoples who have contributed the least to the human factors driving global climate change are most at risk of its harmful consequences. As Catholic pastors and teachers, we have a special concern for how climate change impacts the poor. Concrete commitments should be agreed upon and mechanisms should be created to mitigate additional global climate change and to help poor persons and developing nations adapt to its effects as well as to adopt appropriate technologies for sustainable development. 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. 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.
Among the church-chiefs signing the note were Cardinals Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris (France), Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa (Italy), Francis George of Chicago (US) and Keith O'Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh (Scotland), and Archbishops James Weisgerber of Winnepeg (Canada), Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg (Germany) and Vincent Nichols of Westminster (England and Wales).

On the eve of the three-day summit -- and, indeed, B16's social encyclical -- updated UN figures reported last week that the ranks of the world's hungry had reached a record 1 billion, one-sixth of the global population.