benedict-xvi.jpgThe theme of the Holy Father’s Message for the World Day of Peace, which will be celebrated 1 January 2009, is “Fighting Poverty to Build Peace“.

The message was presented to the media by Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, today, 11 December 2008, during a Press Conference held at the Press Office of the Holy See, in Rome.

Benedict XVI’s Message, said Cardinal Martino, “returns to and develops the Message of John Paul II for the World Day of Peace 1993, which explained the reciprocal connections and conditions existing between poverty and peace”. This time the Holy Father “shows us how peace and the fight against poverty intersect: a given that constitutes one of the most stimulating assumptions, giving a proper cultural, social, and political focus to the complex themes tied to the achievement of peace in our day, which is characterized by the phenomenon of globalization”.

Regarding globalization, the Pope emphasized “the methodological meaning and the content with which to face the theme of the fight against poverty in a broad and concrete manner” and to “analyze in depth these aspects in order to identify the multiple faces of poverty today”.

“The Holy Father above all”, the cardinal continued, “is taking into consideration the role of the social sciences to measure the phenomenon of poverty … which provide quantitative data and, if poverty were merely a material problem, they would suffice to explain its characteristics.
However, we know that that is not the case: there are non-material forms of poverty that are not the direct and automatic consequence of material deprivation”.

“In advanced wealthy societies, the phenomenon of affective, moral and spiritual poverty is wide-spread: many persons feel marginalized and live with various forms of malaise despite their economic prosperity. This is what is known as ‘moral underdevelopment’”.

“The Pope’s message”, concluded the cardinal, “establishes two parts in the theme of the fight against poverty … it ties in with the diverse aspects promoting peace. The first deals with the moral implications tied to poverty; in the second, the fight against poverty is tied to the need the need for a greater global solidarity”.

The following are extracts from the Holy Father’s message for the celebration of the XLII World Day of Peace on 01 January 2009, on the theme “Fighting Poverty to Build Peace”:

“Poverty is often a contributory factor or a compounding element in conflicts, including armed ones. In turn, these conflicts fuel further tragic situations of poverty”.

“Fighting poverty requires attentive consideration of the complex phenomenon of globalization. … The reference to globalization should also alert us to the spiritual and moral implications of the question, urging us, in our dealings with the poor, to set out from the clear recognition that we all share in a single divine plan: we are called to form one family in which all - individuals, peoples and nations - model their behaviour according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility”.

 ”We know that other, non-material forms of poverty exist which are not the direct and automatic consequence of material deprivation. For example, in advanced wealthy societies, there is evidence of marginalization, as well as affective, moral and spiritual poverty, seen in people whose interior lives are disoriented and who experience various forms of malaise despite their economic prosperity. On the one hand, I have in mind what is known as ‘moral underdevelopment’, and on the other hand the negative consequences of ’superdevelopment’. Nor can I forget that, in so-called ‘poor’ societies, economic growth is often hampered by cultural impediments which lead to inefficient use of available resources”.

“Poverty is often considered a consequence of demographic change. … The extermination of millions of unborn children, in the name of the fight against poverty, actually constitutes the destruction of the poorest of all human beings. And yet it remains the case that in 1981, around 40% of the world’s population was below the threshold of absolute poverty, while today that percentage has been reduced by as much as a half, and whole peoples have escaped from poverty despite experiencing substantial demographic growth. This goes to show that resources to solve the problem of poverty do exist, even in the face of an increasing population”.

“Another area of concern has to do with pandemic diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. Insofar as they affect the wealth-producing sectors of the population, they are a significant factor in the overall deterioration of conditions in the country concerned. …. . It also happens that countries afflicted by some of these pandemics find themselves held hostage, when they try to address them, by those who make economic aid conditional upon the implementation of anti-life policies”.

“It is especially hard to combat AIDS, a major cause of poverty, unless the moral issues connected with the spread of the virus are also addressed.
First and foremost, educational campaigns are needed, aimed especially at the young, to promote a sexual ethic that fully corresponds to the dignity of the person; initiatives of this kind have already borne important fruits, causing a reduction in the spread of AIDS. Then, too, the necessary medicines and treatment must be made available to poorer peoples as well”.

“Almost half of those living in absolute poverty today are children. …When the family is weakened, it is inevitably children who suffer. If the dignity of women and mothers is not protected, it is the children who are affected most”.

“The relationship between disarmament and development. The current level of world military expenditure gives cause for concern. … an excessive increase in military expenditure risks accelerating the arms race, producing pockets of underdevelopment and desperation, so that it can paradoxically become a cause of instability, tension and conflict”.

“States are therefore invited to reflect seriously on the underlying reasons for conflicts, often provoked by injustice, and to practise courageous self-criticism. If relations can be improved, it should be possible to reduce expenditure on arms”.

“The current food crisis … places in jeopardy the fulfilment of basic needs. This crisis is characterized not so much by a shortage of food, as by difficulty in gaining access to it and by different forms of speculation: in other words, by a structural lack of political and economic institutions capable of addressing needs and emergencies. … All the indicators of relative poverty in recent years point to an increased disparity between rich and poor. … the majority of the population in the poorest countries suffers a double marginalization, through the adverse effects of lower incomes and higher prices”.

“In order to govern globalization, however, there needs to be a strong sense of global solidarity between rich and poor countries, as well as within individual countries, including affluent ones. A ‘common code of ethics’ is also needed, consisting of norms based not upon mere consensus, but rooted in the natural law inscribed by the Creator on the conscience of every human being”.

“Effective means to redress the marginalization of the world’s poor through globalization will only be found if people everywhere feel personally outraged by the injustices in the world and by the concomitant violations of human rights”.

“Much of this global trade has involved countries that were industrialized early, with the significant addition of many newly-emerging countries which have now entered onto the world stage. Yet there are other low-income countries which are still seriously marginalized in terms of trade. Their growth has been negatively influenced by the rapid decline, seen in recent decades, in the prices of commodities, which constitute practically the whole of their exports. In these countries, which are mostly in Africa, dependence on the exportation of commodities continues to constitute a potent risk factor”.

“Objectively, the most important function of finance is to sustain the possibility of long-term investment and hence of development. Today this appears extremely fragile: it is experiencing the negative repercussions of a system of financial dealings - both national and global - based upon very short-term thinking, which aims at increasing the value of financial operations and concentrates on the technical management of various forms of risk. The recent crisis demonstrates how financial activity can at times be completely turned in on itself, lacking any long-term consideration of the common good. … Finance limited in this way to the short and very short term becomes dangerous for everyone, even for those who benefit when the markets perform well”.

“The fight against poverty requires cooperation both on the economic level and on the legal level, so as to allow the international community, and especially poorer countries, to identify and implement coordinated strategies to deal with the problems discussed above, thereby providing an effective legal framework for the economy. Incentives are needed for establishing efficient participatory institutions, and support is needed in fighting crime and fostering a culture of legality. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that policies which place too much emphasis on assistance underlie many of the failures in providing aid to poor countries. Investing in the formation of people and developing a specific and well-integrated culture of enterprise would seem at present to be the right approach in the medium and long term. … In a modern economy, the value of assets is utterly dependent on the capacity to generate revenue in the present and the future. Wealth creation therefore becomes an inescapable duty, which must be kept in mind if the fight against material poverty is to be effective in the long term”.

“If the poor are to be given priority, then there has to be enough room for an ethical approach to economics on the part of those active in the international market, an ethical approach to politics on the part of those in public office, and an ethical approach to participation capable of harnessing the contributions of civil society at local and international levels. … Civil society in particular plays a key part in every process of development, since development is essentially a cultural phenomenon, and culture is born and develops in the civil sphere”.

“Globalization … needs to be managed with great prudence. This will include giving priority to the needs of the world’s poor, and overcoming the scandal of the imbalance between the problems of poverty and the measures which have been adopted in order to address them. … The problems of development, aid and international cooperation are sometimes addressed without any real attention to the human element, but as merely technical questions - limited, that is, to establishing structures, setting up trade agreements, and allocating funding impersonally”.

“In the Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, John Paul II warned of the need to ‘abandon a mentality in which the poor - as individuals and as peoples - are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced’. … In today’s globalized world, it is increasingly evident that peace can be built only if everyone is assured the possibility of reasonable growth: sooner or later, the distortions produced by unjust systems have to be paid for by everyone. … Globalization on its own is incapable of building peace … it points to a need: to be oriented towards a goal of profound solidarity that seeks the good of each and all.
In this sense, globalization should be seen as a good opportunity to achieve something important in the fight against poverty, and to place at the disposal of justice and peace resources which were scarcely conceivable previously”.

“The Church’s social teaching has always been concerned with the poor. At the time of the Encyclical Letter ‘Rerum Novarum’, the poor were identified mainly as the workers in the new industrial society; in the social Magisterium of Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II, new forms of poverty were gradually explored, as the scope of the social question widened to reach global proportions. … For this reason, while attentively following the current phenomena of globalization and their impact on human poverty, the Church points out the new aspects of the social question, not only in their breadth but also in their depth, insofar as they concern man’s identity and his relationship with God”.

“’In regard to the Church, her cooperation will never be wanting, be the time or the occasion what it may’. … The Christian community will never fail, then, to assure the entire human family of her support through gestures of creative solidarity, not only by ‘giving from one’s surplus’, but above all by ‘a change of life-styles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies’”.

Source: Vatican Information Service