TO CONGRESS ORGANIZED BY FOOD AND DISARMAMENT INTERNATIONAL
Sensitivity to hunger, war and terrorism but, not, alas, to
the crime of abortion
On Thursday, 13 February 1986, the Holy Father received in audience a
delegation from the Organization "Food and Disarmament International" which was
holding its second international conference in Rome. The theme of the meeting
was the extermination of human beings by hunger, war, and terrorism, and the
affirmation of the right to life and liberty. The honorary President of the
"F.D.I." Prof. Wilkins, a Nobel Prize winner in the field of medicine, was
present at the audience. The following is a translation of the Holy Father's
address from the French.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It is with pleasure that I welcome you here and greet you. Even before
beginning the work of your second international conference on the themes of
extermination by destitution and hunger and of the affirmation of the right to
life and liberty, you honour me with your visit. I am very grateful for that.
Among the participants of this highly representative assembly, each of whom I
will greet personally at the end of this audience, I thank in -particular- your
spokesman for the cordial words he has just addressed to me.
I am all the more appreciative as I see in your gesture a homage to the work
of the Holy See and of the entire Catholic Church for the promotion of human
2. The Church cannot but look favourably on all initiatives which cooperate
to inform and mould public opinion, making it aware of the common responsibility
with regard to the problem of underdevelopment and of hunger in the world, so as
to have an influence also with states and international organizations with a
view to eliciting on their part a more effective and more coordinate commitment
in the struggle against these plagues of humanity.
Your conference offers a particular occasion for a meeting among
distinguished personalities of the entire world, representing diverse sectors of
political life, international life, science and economy. Owing to the comparison
of your different experiences, you thus want to work out some proposals
determining, in a more precise way, some objectives and means of action apt to
favour the integral development of every human being and of all people.
3. The abundance and the urgency of the problems require, in fact, that
realistic measures be adopted without delay, thus permitting the terrible and
urgent situation of undernourishment and death from hunger to be faced
concretely and in a responsible manner. Such situations cannot be overcome by
sporadic initiatives, but by progressive and constant action, carried out in
each of the countries and means of action apt to favour development, within the
framework of the co-responsibility of all the nations of the world.
Such choices presuppose that one adopts -- as you do -- a viewpoint of moral
values, notably the right to life, the right to fundamental liberties, to the
growth and the integral promotion of each human person; and, consequently, the
right of each of the members of the human community and the right of each people
to have at their disposal the necessary means for a life worthy of man.
Each nation can consider as a fundamental need to meet all the necessary
conditions allowing a global process of growth, these being allotted justly in a
manner to guarantee life, liberty and the full development of all the members of
the national community.
When one wants to struggle in a concrete manner against misery and hunger,
one cannot of course limit oneself to giving necessary assistance at the
opportune moment, nor to preparing measures aimed at increasing production in an
adequate manner. There must be a long-lasting and coordinated commitment which
profoundly affects relations between countries in different stages of
development. It is a matter of correcting, even fundamentally, situations of
imbalance between populations and resources, which exist in a more acute way in
certain regions of the world.
In summary, let us say that it is important to act on the causes, identified
in their diversity, according to their kind and extent.
4. That is why it is important to make the most of the contribution deriving
from the experience of government members and of persons engaged in the
activities of international organizations, on both the world level and the
regional level, and this your conference is rightly doing.
Such a contribution seems indispensable, firstly, in order to have
documentation with precise data on situations and resources; and also to be in a
position to prepare projects and valuable programs. In fact, it is necessary
that, on the international level and on the level of government decisions, one
arrives at definite working options, corresponding to actual needs and taking
into account the concrete possibilities of realization. The contributions which
derive from the numerous and generous initiatives towards solidarity seem to be
going well in becoming intensified; but, at the same time, various initiatives
must be coordinated and made more effective, because it is necessary to avoid
duplication or any waste, and it is also necessary to harmonize them with the
directives and choices of a true policy of cooperation for development.
5. Finally, the question is rightly this: to act so that all countries feel
themselves involved in a responsible and effective way, the most prosperous
having to become aware of their duty to contribute to the progress of countries
less gifted, and in a measure proportionate to their greater possibilities.
In taking account of the requirements of the liberty and the dignity of each
people, an authentic co-operation for development is concretely realized in
programs established in accord with the benefiting countries, according to
models corresponding to their culture, and begun in respect for their timing and
local possibilities, in a manner to obtain, in every measure possible, the
active collaboration of the whole population.
In a word, it is a matter of working together for the effective good of
populations who find themselves in conditions of underdevelopment, while seeking
the convergence of public and private, national and international initiatives,
all animated a sincere spirit of solidarity. One must go beyond egoistic
interests of persons and particular groups and enterprises, and also selfish
national interests which are sometimes hidden behind government initiatives,
especially in bilateral operations.
6. Finally, it is necessary to recall at such a change of direction of
internal and international politics suppose a profound renewal of consciences,
either on a general level, that of public opinion, or, in a special way, among
the leaders called to make effective decisions and to put them into practice.
It is necessary to modify mentalities and behaviour which run counter to the
criteria of justice in solidarity towards the neighbour. It is urgent to do away
with the adoption of life of ease and plenty; habits of dangerous
over-consumption; and the squandering in enterprises of a general nature or of
The causes of internal and international tensions must be surmounted, as well
as the perverse logic of divisions, the will to power, which is manifested among
other things in expensive armaments, because all that compromises the process of
development of certain countries - sometimes hardly begun - and conditions in a
negative manner the support of more advanced countries.
Finally, one must work, with clearmindedness and courage to establish a new
international economic order.
7. But the profound change that I have just discussed will remain sterile if
it is not founded on complete respect, a respect born of conviction for the
dignity of man, of very person.
Precisely so, in the program of our work, you have established a close bond
between the struggle against misery and hunger, and the affirmation of the right
to life and liberty. During my recent pastoral journey to India, in meeting the
leaders of the traditional religions at Madras, I expressed the same conviction:
"The abolition of inhuman conditions of life is an authentic spiritual victory,
because it gives man liberty and dignity".
The promotion of the dignity and the liberty of man, which are clearly
evangelical values, is an essential dimension of the mission of the Church. Man
is, in fact, the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out
by Christ himself (Redemptor Hominis, n. 14). That is why the Church does not
limit itself to the abstract proclamation of such values, but is concerned about
being united with man in the concrete reality of his needs and sufferings, his
anxieties and his hopes.
Thus, the Church does not cease to defend with all its power human life,
which comes from God. Permit me to observe, with sorrow, that, in face of a very
deep and, as it were, sacrosanct sensitivity to offences against life which are
the result of hunger, war and terrorism, one does not find a similar sensitivity
to the crime of abortion, which, however, cuts off innumerable innocent lives.
Recalling, besides, that Christ identified himself with those who suffer from
hunger, thirst, nakedness and all sorts of privations, the Church is concerned
with all who are struggling in misery and underdevelopment. There she is in the
front line herself, and shows all men of good will the urgency of struggling
against such inhuman conditions, in a commitment to justice which is the fruit
of fraternal love.
The Church cannot but be concerned about another hunger: the "hunger for
liberty" of men and peoples oppressed for political, ideological and racial
reasons. Liberty is a property of man as a son of God; it is a good which
belongs to the inviolable intimacy of the person and which cannot be trampled
underfoot, without, in a certain sense, putting the person interiorly to death.
Such is the specific contribution of the spiritual and religious mission of
the Church: she is resolved to offer it to all those who are open, on different
levels of competence and initiative, to the great causes of man which constitute
the object of your conference.
It is in this spirit that I desire to assure you of my interest, my
encouragement, and my cordial wishes for your work. And I invoke upon yourselves
and upon your undertaking of human solidarity, the blessings of the Most High.
other Papal Writings and Speeches]