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Escaping Poverty: Interview With Archbishop Silvano Tomasi

Escaping Poverty: Interview With Archbishop Silvano Tomasi

GENEVA, OCT. 16, 2007 ( Intelligent use of the economy, market and culture is needed to attain objectives coinciding with our values as Christians and members of the human family, says a Holy See representative.

In this interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, spoke of the necessary avenues to help developing nations escape poverty.

Q: What tools does Vatican diplomacy use to evaluate the most underprivileged in the world?

Archbishop Tomasi: The Holy See works within the international sphere, with the United Nations and in the U.N.-related agencies, as an “observer” state; this gives the Holy See the right to intervene and take part in non-voting activities, thus allowing the Holy See to act more freely than other states.

Furthermore, the Holy See endeavors to promote a line of discourse to support and aid the least developed countries, particularly those suffering in conditions of extreme poverty.

Specifically, the Holy See tries to generate a public culture, a world opinion within the international sphere, by declaring that developed countries are not only in a position to choose to support poorer populations, but that they bear the ethical responsibility to do so.

Then, the Holy See tries to offer actual help to these populations, not only in the form of financial support, which sometimes contributes to corruption, but, above all, through technical training, the exchange of information and licenses, all to help facilitate production.

And, with the aid of existing international structures and U.N.-related entities, such as the U.N. Conference for Trade and Development, we try to equip less wealthy countries with the ability to take part in trade, keeping in mind that participation is one of the most important concepts in the Church’s social doctrine.

According to this concept, everyone is entitled to take part in international life, to have access to common goods in a fair, proportionate and justified manner.

Q: What is your position in the debate about debt forgiveness for poor countries?

Archbishop Tomasi: For years, particularly since the Jubilee of the year 2000, several private organizations, the Church, and the Holy Father himself, have issued exhortations on the subject of debt forgiveness for poor countries because even payment of the interest is so burdensome that it obstructs development.

Therefore, I am in favor of debt forgiveness for the poorest countries as soon as possible, so that some of the resources that thus become available can be channeled toward social development, health care, children’s education, drinking water systems, all for a gradual improvement of living standards.

Q: Do you consider the developed world to be adequately informed and involved in the problems of poor countries?

Archbishop Tomasi: Public opinion is often distracted by many things that are not so essential. Occasionally, great tragedies or humanitarian campaigns draw attention for a while.

Some time back, we had the tsunami in Southeast Asia, which brought about people’s very constructive, positive and generous response. But we have other “tsunamis.” We have thousands of people dying of hunger, malaria or AIDS every day while nothing is said about these silent tragedies.

The media sometimes reports on these, issuing information, but it is then lost because the news items are not dramatized, and public attention wanders.

The fact that there are wars going on, people dead as the result of conflicts in Africa, Asia or the Middle East, is viewed with a certain degree of indifference. It is almost as if we have grown accustomed to the normalcy of these tragedies.

In my opinion, for people to see on the news that 100 people have been assassinated in Baghdad, another 20 in Mogadishu, and 50 refugees have died in a tragedy in Africa, is sometimes not very different from watching an entertainment movie after the news bulletin.

Therefore, it is important for Christians to sensitize people through the network of parishes, groups and movements, about the need for solidarity toward the most disenfranchised, to work together toward peace, for a bit of progress and for a better standard of living for these distant people.

Q: What are your thoughts on multilateral diplomacy versus bilateral dialogue in the international community?

Archbishop Tomasi: I would say, above all, that there is still a strong desire to struggle and negotiate in order to continue on a multilateral level, to seek solutions to current problems, particularly in the field of trade.

For example, the director general of the World Trade Organization insists on the fact that we must definitely continue to grow together in the same direction in order to be truly effective in the long term, even in the case of developed countries.

However, at the moment, there is the temptation in Europe and in other states to try to bypass common action through bilateral negotiations. This tendency can have very dangerous consequences because the stronger party tends to impose its terms on the weaker one, so that the negotiation is not really equitable.

In the long term, this can just lead to the maintenance of the status quo, in other words, the coexistence of rich and poor countries, which, in fact, does not succeed in combating poverty.

Q: As permanent observer of the Holy See in Geneva, do you consider international organizations in the field of economics, especially the World Trade Organization, as directing their course of action toward the sustained development of Third World nations?

Archbishop Tomasi: I attended the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference at the end of 2005, when the WTO tried to evaluate the “Doha Development Round” [from November 2001].

On that occasion, it became clear that, despite the extremely tough bargaining, it is possible to reach agreements that are beneficial to all concerned. Therefore, these international structures, which are necessary to achieve the globalization of the economy, the market, and culture, must be used intelligently.

We have to make an intelligent use of these structures in order to attain objectives that are truly in line with our fundamental values as Christians and as members of the human family.

Filed under: Economic Policy, Papal Teachings,



VATICAN CITY, OCT 16, 2007 (VIS) – Benedict XVI has written a Message to Jacques Diouf, director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the occasion of World Food Day, an annual event organized by the FAO every October 16.

With the theme chosen for this year’s Day, “the right to food,” writes the Holy Father in his message, the FAO “is inviting the international community to face up to one of the most serious challenges of our time: freeing from hunger millions of human beings, whose lives are in danger because of a lack of daily bread.”

“We must realize that the efforts made thus far do not seem to have significantly diminished the number of hungry people in the world,” the Pope observes, “despite the fact that everyone recognizes that food is a primary right. … The available data shows that the lack of fulfillment of the right to food is due not only to natural causes but, above all, to situations provoked by human behavior which lead to a generalized social, economic and human deterioration.”

The Pope goes on to recall how “an ever greater number of people – because of poverty or bloody conflicts – find themselves obliged to abandon their homes and their loved ones in order to seek sustenance outside their own lands, Despite international agreements, many of them are rejected” he adds, highlighting the “pressing” need for a concrete undertaking in which “all members of society, both in the individual and the international spheres, feel committed to cooperating in order to make the right to food possible.” The lack of fulfillment of this right, he says, “constitutes an evident violation of human dignity and of the rights deriving therefrom.”

The Holy Father then goes on to praise the FAO’s expert understanding of “the problems of the agricultural world and of food insecurity, and its proven capacity to present plans and programs for their solution” as well as the organization’s “acute sensitivity to the aspirations of those calling for more human living conditions.”

“The Catholic Church,” he concludes, “feels closely involved … in this task and, through her various institutions, wishes to continue collaboration in order to support the desires and hopes of those individuals and peoples towards whom the activity of the FAO is directed.”

Filed under: Economic Policy, Papal Teachings,

Holy See Urges Consideration for Refugee Rights

Holy See Urges Consideration for Refugee Rights
Says It’s Best Way to Aid Displaced Peoples

GENEVA, OCT. 8, 2007 ( the central place of human
rights for refugees is an approach that opens new commitment and leads to
practical measures, the Holy See told a meeting of the United Nations.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the Office
of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, said this to
the 58th session of the executive committee of the agency Oct. 2.

“Forcibly displaced people continue to be subjected to human rights
violations,” Archbishop Tomasi explained. “Regrettably, the number of
refugees has increased again to some 10 million persons and internally
displaced people to well over 24 million.

“Millions of normal, ordinary human beings are thrust into situations of
incredible humiliation and suffering.

“An approach that opens to new commitments and that leads to practical
measures of assistance and protection is based on rethinking the central
place that human dignity and human rights should hold in refugee and asylum

“The respect of the rights of all displaced persons leads to a
comprehensive response and protection so that a globalization of protection
results from a globalization of rights,” the Italian apostolic nuncio said.

Twofold approach

The archbishop explained: “The perspective of human rights emanating from
the dignity of every person offers a twofold advantage.

“First, a human rights approach means that the duty to protect reaches
beyond the narrow national interest of single states and beyond the fear
that it may be a disguised form of domination.

“Second, the human right to protection means that governments and other
social groups have a duty not to drive people from their homes by denying
them the possibility to survive there but to respond instead to the
challenges of protection in a timely and effective way.”

“A comprehensive human rights perspective can indicate appropriate criteria
and means that would apply from the moment a person is forced to leave home
and to apply for asylum to the moment a durable solution is reached,”
affirmed the 66-year-old prelate.

“The prevention of conflicts, which always are a source of human rights
violations and of massive forced displacement, must become the main road in
the efforts of the international community to eradicate the tragedy of
forced displacement,” he added.

Human solidarity

Archbishop Tomasi explained: “[W]elcoming refugees and giving them
hospitality is, for every one, a vital gesture of human solidarity in order
to help them feel less isolated by intolerance and disinterest.

“Benedict XVI constantly appeals that these our brothers and sisters, so
badly tested by suffering, should be guaranteed asylum and the recognition
of their rights, and that public authorities should offer them protection
in such delicate situations of need.”

“In conclusion,” Archbishop Tomasi said, “addressing the problem of
uprooted people from their own perspective, and that of their dignity and
rights, will lead the international community to search for more
comprehensive and humane solutions and to find the motivation for
undertaking bold steps for their implementation.”

Filed under: Migration, Papal Teachings

Holy See Address on Development

ZE07100901 – 2007-10-09

Holy See Address on Development

“Economic Policies Cannot Be Separated From Social Policies”

NEW YORK, OCT. 9, 2007 ( Here is a statement given today by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, to the 62nd U.N. General Assembly.

The address was given before the Third Committee, on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the 24th special session of the General Assembly.

* * *

Mr. Chairman,

At the 1995 Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development, the member states of the United Nations affirmed the need to address the problem of poverty by attacking its structural roots. They decided to incorporate into their national policies, as an essential element, a sharp reduction of inequality and of the various forms of marginalization and to achieve full social integration.

The international debate following the Copenhagen Summit shifted its focus to the global fight to eradicate extreme poverty cantered on achieving the MDGs. It also stressed the conditions required for equity in bilateral and multilateral financial and trade relationships and made special reference to the WTO Doha Round. The debate touched on the problems of external debt, the governance of world finance and the emergencies that generate or aggravate poverty, such as wars, corruption, the trafficking of drugs and human beings.

While this discussion is of utmost importance, it is equally important to reiterate that economic policies cannot be separated from social policies; otherwise, neither one nor the other will reach its respective goal. Indeed, during the last 12 years there has been a clear tendency toward increasing inequality between rich and poor, between developed and developing or underdeveloped countries and within individual nations. Evidently, the greater benefits of global economic growth have not reached, generally speaking, the poorer segments of society.

So far, only a few states have achieved a right balance between success in a global market-driven economy and the preservation, even a fine tuning, of social protection, thus ensuring a person-cantered development. Instead, in many cases new forms of poverty in both rich and poor countries have appeared side by side with the more traditional ones mainly characterized by wide income differences. The dearth of means among the weaker sectors of society has led to the loss of social relationships and networks needed to maintain personal integrity and dignity. Such is the case of the elderly left on their own, of the uninsured sick people, of the unemployed and the unskilled, of migrants unable to find work, of women and children suffering from family breakdown, of all those in precarious situations.

The Copenhagen Summit already foresaw the problems that the rapidly globalizing economy would provoke if not accompanied by a renewed attention to the social dimension of economic development. Today the world suffers from the unhinging, in greater or lesser degree, of social development from economic progress. Hence the Copenhagen Declaration and Program of Action continue to be relevant. They indicate the necessary means to overcome marginalization and to create the conditions for all to benefit from economic development.

While the responsibility for social equity lies primarily with individual governments, the international community has the duty to cooperate actively in its implementation, both by creating trade and financial conditions favorable to the growth of all national economies and by rejecting conditionalities that would restrict states from adopting policies aimed at helping the less favored sectors of society, such as the disabled and the elderly. The international community is called to assist states develop such policies, promote a new culture of solidarity and empower the poor to be protagonists of their own development.

Mr. Chairman,

Education is at the basis of all social policies. The value of education goes beyond economic development and the satisfaction of one’s basic needs. Education enables individuals and peoples to establish with others relationships founded on mutual respect and friendship and not on coercion. An educated society facilitates the fight against corruption that erodes the possibility of economic growth of the poorest. It also helps create a legal framework that leaves ample space to the rights of property and free enterprise, while safeguarding at the same time the full enjoyment of the social and economic rights of all without exception.

The eradication of poverty and the full enjoyment of the basic social rights by all individuals and of their families is fundamentally a moral commitment. Indeed, the indications and suggestions contained in the Copenhagen Declaration are no more than a translation into the language of international relations of those ethical values that exist in the heart of every man and woman and are enunciated in moral and religious precepts. The eradication of poverty and the full enjoyment of the basic social rights by all must therefore be goals enshrined in all economic and development policies, and be measures of their success or failure.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Filed under: Economic Policy, Papal Teachings

Holy See Glad U.N. Peace Group Exists

ZE07101207 – 2007-10-12

Holy See Glad U.N. Peace Group Exists

Hopes for Results in Burundi and Sierra Leone


NEW YORK, OCT. 12, 2007 ( Though the U.N. Peacebuilding Commission is still in a stage of growth, the Holy See welcomes the existence of the group, which aims to establish peace in countries recovering from conflict.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, said this Wednesday at an address before the 62nd U.N. General Assembly, when he spoke about the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) at the end of its inaugural year.

He said: “My delegation believes that the best guarantee against conflict is the individual and collective enjoyment of durable peace. To achieve this in a post-conflict country, it is necessary to recognize the special needs of that country, so it can be assisted accordingly in laying the foundation of a sustainable peace.

“The Holy See therefore warmly welcomed the creation of the PBC, as a response to the need for greater coherence and coordination of international peacebuilding efforts in post-conflict situations.”

Archbishop Migliore said, though, that the success of the mission will be measured based on the results it obtains in its first two countries, Burundi and Sierra Leone.

“The PBC’s emphasis on strong national ownership and responsibility gives us reason to hope for success in those first two focus countries, as well as in other post-conflict states that will be considered in the future,” he said.

“My delegation is aware of the continuing debates on what the PBC should be, on its relation with peacekeeping operations and on its procedures and methods,” the archbishop continued. “While this is part of the commission’s growth process, these debates should not distract nor derail it from its mandate of making a difference in the lives of peoples and countries, lest it become just another debating forum.”

Archbishop Migliore confirmed the Holy See’s “continuing interest in the work of the PBC,” and said he encourages it “in the pursuit of its challenging task of helping rebuild individual lives and entire countries ravaged by war.”

“It shall have fully achieved this task,” he added, “when development, peace and security, and human rights will finally be interlinked and mutually reinforcing in a country which knew the devastations of armed conflict.”

Filed under: Papal Teachings,