12/11/2008, 00.00
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Message for Peace 2009: the poor, wealth of the world

by Bernardo Cervellera
Benedict XVI asks nations to combat poverty by including the poor, making them active partners in development. Population control policies are "irrational," the ideologies that want redistribution of wealth are "illusory," the current financial system and its disastrous techniques are "based upon very short-term thinking." The education of the poor and sharing are the path of the Church's mission, and of peace. A link to the complete text of the message.

Roman (AsiaNews) - There is a story about Saint Lawrence the deacon, that when the emperor asked him to bring him all the wealth of the Church of Rome, he brought the many poor people assisted by the community, and said, "This is the wealth of the Church!"

With with message for the World Day of Peace 2009, Benedict XVI is expanding this vision in order to affirm that the poor are the wealth of world society. Not in the banal sense of a moralistic and useless pauperism: the message does not say to become poor, but to "fight poverty." The pope's proposal is to consider them as the measure of the humanity of our societies.

It is the presence of the poor that tells us to what extent globalization is heading in the right direction, and to what extent it is darkening consciences, making us uninterested in the rest of the world and content with using the well-being we have achieved as a narcotic drug. "It is utterly foolish to build a luxury home in the midst of desert or decay" (no. 14). The ranks of the poor and of the marginalized measure the stability or instability of a society. It is enough to look at what is happening in China, where the corrupt development of a few and the abysmal misery of many continue to provoke popular revolts, unraveling all of the successes achieved by the Chinese communist party in recent decades.

What is happening in China (or in Greece) applies all over the world. The poor are the ones who engage our model of development, and together with the rich are the builders of a society able to live in peace. Unfortunately, so far many countries, and even the UN agencies on population, have preferred to "combat poverty" by physically eliminating the poor. The message dwells on the unjust policy of population control (abortion, sterilization, selective female abortion), demonstrating the irrationality of this, given that the nations with the highest rate of development are also the most populous: "In other words, population is proving to be an asset, not a factor that contributes to poverty" (no. 3) Therefore, the yearly elimination of 500,000 female fetuses in India, or the selective abortion of 40 million girls over the past 20 years in China, are irrational. Also irrational are the arms race, the banalization of the fight against AIDS, the speculation that creates the worldwide food crisis (nos. 4-8).

The message suggests that in order to increase prosperity and peace, countries must make room for the poor, "put the poor first," giving them a voice in politics, making room for them in the economy, making them active participants in development. The Church and missionaries have implemented this dynamic for centuries, with schools, hospitals, and universities open to the poor.

The pope sees the ideological policies of redistribution of wealth, which always turn into demagogical flops (think of Venezuela or Zimbabwe), as "illusory." And he calls "based upon very short-term thinking," without depth or breadth, the current financial system and its techniques (nos. 10-12), preoccupied with creating wealth from nothing, and leading the planet to its current disaster. He proposes a "moral" revolution: that every man should "feel personally outraged by the injustices in the world and by the concomitant violations of human rights" (no. 8), and that the poor might "make good use of their capacity for work, thus creating a world that is more just and prosperous for all" (no. 14). It would be worthwhile for countries like the United States, which are trying to rescue the economy simply by covering up the gaping holes in the financial giants in crisis, to follow these suggestions. And they should also be heard in China, where the poor do not even have the right to speak.

Click here to read the message in its entirety.

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