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Freedom from hunger essential, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI appealed for immediate and long-term relief for the world’s hungry, saying the right to adequate nourishment is a fundamental part of the right to life.

The hunger crisis that affects millions of people today is a sign of the deep gulf between the haves and the have-nots of the world and calls for changes in lifestyle and in global economic mechanisms, the pope said in a message marking World Food Day Oct. 16. The text was addressed to Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Citing the famine and refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa, the pope said the “painful images” of starving people underline the need for both emergency aid and long-term intervention to support agricultural production and distribution.

“Freedom from the yoke of hunger is the first concrete manifestation of that right to life which, although solemnly proclaimed, often remains far from being effectively implemented,” he said.

The theme of this year’s World Food Day focused on food prices, and the pope said current pricing volatility reflected the tendency toward speculation on food commodities. He said a new global attitude is needed.

“There are clear signs of the profound division between those who lack daily sustenance and those who have huge resources at their disposal,” he said. Given the dramatic nature of the problem, reflection and analysis are not enough — action must be taken, he said.

The pope said it was easy but mistaken to “reduce every consideration to the food demands of a growing population.” Demographic experts have predicted that the earth’s population will reach 7 billion by Oct. 31.

The real solution to food imbalances, the pope said, lies in modifying behavior and changing structures so that “every person, today and not tomorrow, has access to the necessary food resources” and so that agricultural production has stability.

He said the major challenges include lifestyle changes to promote moderation in consumption and the protection of natural resources, as well as new investments in agricultural infrastructure.