On 20 February Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi C.S., Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations at Geneva, participated in the tenth special session of the Human Rights Council, which focused on the world economic crisis and its repercussions on human rights.
The prelate noted how the current crisis “has created a global recession causing dramatic social consequences, including the loss of millions of jobs and the serious risk that, for many of the developing countries, the Millennium Development Goals may not be reached. The human rights of countless persons are compromised, including the right to food, water, health and decent work”.
“In a recent document, the World Bank estimates that, in 2009, the current global economic crisis could push an additional 53 million people below the threshold of two dollars a day. This figure is in addition to the 130 million people pushed into poverty in 2008 by the increase in food and energy prices”.
“It is well known”, the permanent observer went on, “that low-income countries are heavily dependent upon two financing flows: foreign aid and migrant remittances. Both flows are expected to decline significantly over the next months, due to the worsening of the economic crisis. … The delegation of the Holy See would like to focus on a specific case in this crisis: its impact on the human rights of children, which exemplifies, as well, what is symptomatic of the destructive impact on all other social and economic rights. These include the right to health, education, and food.”
The nuncio then went on to consider another consequence of the crisis “that could be particularly relevant for the mandate of the United Nations: All too often, periods of severe economic hardship have been characterised by the rise in power of governments with dubious commitments to democracy. The Holy See prays that such consequences will be avoided in the present crisis, since they would result in a serious threat for the diffusion of basic human rights for which this institution has so tenaciously struggled.
Christians an Asset to Muslim Countries
Benedict XVI is affirming that Christians add a richness to Muslim-majority countries.
The Pope said this in a message written on his behalf by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and sent to a conference sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio. The conference was on “The Value of the Churches in the Middle East: Christians and Muslims Discuss Together.”
In the message, the Holy Father expressed the hope that the Middle East will be “a land of dialogue and fraternal collaboration, mutual respect and peace, thanks to the responsible contribution of all believers who live in it.”
The issue discussed in the meeting has a “clear religious and social significance.”
The meeting, the papal statement said, “is one more step in the patient and beneficial journey of dialogue between Christians and Muslims on [topics] of mutual interest.” In particular, it affirmed, the congress confronts the “crucial” issue “of the presence of Christian communities in regions of strong Islamic supremacy.”
The statement encouraged congress participants “to bring to light, also thanks to the involvement of key representatives of the Islamic world, how the presence of Christians in the Middle East represents a true richness for the whole society and a significant guarantee of social, cultural and religious development.”
The Pope “invokes divine blessings on the important meeting, and fervently [hopes] that useful elements will emerge in it that will make the dialogue between Christians and Muslims increasingly fraternal, especially in regions where Christians are a minority.”
Archbishop Chaput Gives Businessmen Key to Success
The key to success is personal integrity and living virtuously with a focus on giving rather than taking, affirmed the archbishop of Denver in an address to business leaders.
Archbishop Charles Chaput affirmed this on 24 February 2009 in Toronto in an address to some 100 leaders in the business community. The talk, “Character and Circumstance,” was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Toronto, the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, Regis College and the Meritus, an archdiocesan group for Catholic business leaders.
The prelate recognized that “a free market can be a powerful force for good in the world,”
but warned that “economic power can become a kind of addiction.”
He added, “The need for a profit and today’s specialization of skills and interests narrows our horizon – not just at work, but in the way we connect with the world and perceive others.” The market exists for everyone, he affirmed, but “we never lose responsibility for the people around us.”
Archbishop Chaput said: “Catholic or not, any sensible businessperson can understand the logic of the Golden Rule. We reap what we sow. If we act ethically, we create an ethical world.” God is love, he emphasized, and thus “there’s no way to be a ‘successful’ person – in business, in politics, in the Church or anywhere else – by wanting and taking more than we’re willing to give.”
The prelate asked his audience, “Where does God belong in the marketplace?” He answered: “He belongs in the hearts and the actions of the people who make the market succeed. And that means you.”
“The truest respect we can show to civil authority, the Archbishop stated, is the witness of our Catholic faith and our moral convictions, without excuses or apologies.” He continued: “It doesn’t matter what we claim to believe if we’re unwilling to act on our beliefs.”
Ecumenical Group Concurs About Spiritual Desert
Christians of many confessions are united in affirming that the ecological crisis is itself a reflection of a deeper spiritual crisis.
This was one of the conclusions from the meeting of the Joint Committee of the Conference of European Churches and the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, which was held on 19 to 22 February in Hungary. The committee considered the issue of creation as the main point on its agenda this year.
“In the discussion, the committee noted that the ecological crisis is itself a reflection of a deeper spiritual crisis,” a final statement reported. “There was shared agreement on the words of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI that the external deserts in the world are growing because the internal deserts have become so vast.”
The Christian leaders recognized that human beings need to come to see themselves as stewards, not exploiters, of creation.
“A concern for effective stewardship of creation is closely linked with a concern for justice in our world,” they contended. ” The Christian leaders resolved to use the time from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4 as especially dedicated to “contemplate, care for and celebrate God’s goodness in creation.”
Finally, it recognized that churches throughout Europe need to play their part in influencing the U.N. Climate Conference to take place in Copenhagen this December.