8-Misc: Pope critical on globalization and GE
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TITLE: Earth is entrusted to man's use, not abuse
SOURCE: L'Osservatore Romano, Vatican
DATE: November 22, 2000
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
Earth is entrusted to man's use, not abuse
Holy Father addresses participants in programme organized for Jubilee of
the Agricultural World
On Saturday evening, 11 November, farmers and representatives of
agricultural institutions from the five continents gathered with the Holy
Father in the Paul VI Hall for a programme of music, song, testimonies,
reflections and prayer as part of the Jubilee of the Agricultural World.
The Pope reminded the participants that the earth belongs to God.
Therefore, human dominion over the world does "not make man the absolute
arbiter of the earth's governance, but the Creator's "co-worker': a
stupendous mission, but one which is also marked by precise boundaries that
can never be transgressed with impunity".
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address, which was given in
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am pleased to be able to meet you on the occasion of the Jubilee of
the Agricultural World, for this moment of celebration and reflection on
the present state of this important sector of life and the economy, as well
as on the ethical and social perspectives that concern it. I thank Cardinal
Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, for his kind words expressing the
sentiments and expectations of all those present. I respectfully greet the
dignitaries, including those of different religious backgrounds who are
representing various organizations and are present this evening to offer us
the contribution of their testimony.
2. The Jubilee of farmers coincides with the traditional "Thanksgiving Day"
promoted in Italy by the praiseworthy Confederation of Farmers, to whom I
extend my most cordial greetings. This "Day" makes a strong appeal to the
perennial values cherished by the agricultural world, particularly to its
marked religious sense. To give thanks is to glorify God who created the
land and its produce, to God who saw that it was "good" (Gn 1: 12) and
entrusted it to man for wise and industrious safekeeping.
The Church's contribution is one of Gospel witness
Dear men and women of the agricultural world, you are entrusted with the
task of making the earth fruitful. A most important task, whose urgent need
today is becoming ever more apparent. The area where you work is usually
called the "primary sector" by economic science. On the world economic
scene, your sector varies considerably, in comparison to others, according
to continent and nation. But whatever the cost in economic terms, plain
good sense is enough to highlight its real "primacy" with respect to vital
human needs. When this sector is underappreciated or mistreated, the
consequences for life, health and ecological balance are always serious and
usually difficult to remedy, at least in the short term.
3. The Church has always had special regard for this area of work, which
has also been expressed in important magisterial documents. How could we
forget, in this respect, Bl. John XXIII's Mater et Magistra? At the time he
put his "finger on the wound", so to speak, denouncing the problems that
were unfortunately making agriculture a "depressed sector" in those years,
regarding both "labour productivity" and "the standard of living of farm
populations" (cf. ibid., nn. 123-124). In the time between Mater et
Magistra and our day, it certainly cannot be said that these problems have
been solved. Rather it should be noted that there are others in addition,
in the framework of new problems stemming from the globalization of the
economy and the worsening of the "ecological question".
4. The Church obviously has no "technical" solutions to offer. Her
contribution is at the level of Gospel witness and is expressed in
proposing the spiritual values that give meaning to life and guidance for
practical decisions, including at the level of work and the economy.
Without doubt, the most important value at stake when we look at the earth
and at those who work is the principle that brings the earth back to her
Creator: the earth belongs to God! It must therefore be treated according
to his law. If, with regard to natural resources, especially under the
pressure of industrialization, an irresponsible culture of "dominion" has
been reinforced with devastating ecological consequences, this certainly
does not correspond to God's plan. "Fill the earth and subdue it; and have
dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air" (Gn 1:
28). These famous words of Genesis entrust the earth to man's use, not
They do not make man the absolute arbiter of the earth's governance, but
the Creator's "co-worker": a stupendous mission, but one which is also
marked by precise boundaries that can never be transgressed with impunity.
Everyone has the right to live off the fruits of the earth
This is a principle to be remembered in agricultural production itself,
whenever there is a question of its advance through the application of
biotechnologies, which cannot be evaluated solely on the basis of immediate
economic interests. They must be submitted beforehand to rigorous
scientific and ethical examination, to prevent them from becoming
disastrous for human health and the future of the earth.
5. The fact that the earth belongs constitutively to God is also the basis
of the principle, so dear to the Church's social teaching, of the universal
destination of the earth's goods (cf. Centesimus annus, n. 6). What God has
given man, he has given with the heart of a father who cares for his
children, no one excluded. God's earth is therefore also man's earth and
that of all mankind! This certainly does not imply the illegitimacy of the
right to property, but demands a conception of it and its consequent
regulation which will safeguard and further its intrinsic "social function"
(cf. Mater et Magistra, n. 111; Populorum progressio, n. 23).
Every person, every people, has the right to live off the fruits of the
earth. At the beginning of the new millennium, it is an intolerable scandal
that so many people are still reduced to hunger and live in conditions
unworthy of man. We can no longer limit ourselves to academic reflections:
we must rid humanity of this disgrace through appropriate political and
economic decisions with a global scope. As I wrote in my Message to the
Director-General of the FAO on the occasion of World Food Day, it is
necessary "to uproot the causes of hunger and malnutrition" (cf.
L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 November 2000, p. 3). As is widely
known, this situation has a variety of causes. Among the most absurd are
the frequent conflicts within States, which are often true wars of the
poor. And there remains the burdensome legacy of an often unjust
distribution of wealth in individual nations and at the world level.
6. This is an aspect which the celebration of the Jubilee brings precisely
to our special attention. For the original institution of the Jubilee, as
it is formulated in the Bible, was aimed at re-establishing equality among
the children of Israel also by restoring property, so that the poorest
people could pick themselves up again and everyone could experience,
including at the level of a dignified life, the joy of belonging to the one
people of God.
Our Jubilee, 2,000 years after Christ's birth, must also bear this sign of
universal brotherhood. It represents a message that is addressed not only
to believers, but to all people of good will, so that they will be
resolved, in their economic decisions, to abandon the logic of sheer
advantage and combine legitimate "profit" with the value and practice of
solidarity. As I have said on other occasions, we need a globalization of
solidarity, which in turn presupposes a "culture of solidarity" that must
flourish in every heart.
The duty of fraternal sharing must be taught
7. Thus, while we never cease to urge the public authorities, the great
economic powers and the most influential institutions to move in this
direction, we must be convinced that there is a "conversion" that involves
us all personally. We must start with ourselves. For this reason, in the
Encyclical Centesimus annus, along with the discussions of the ecological
question, I pointed to the urgent need for a "human ecology". This concept
is meant to recall that "not only has God given the earth to man, who must
use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to
him, but man too is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the
natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed" (Centesimus
annus, n. 38). If man loses his sense of life and the security of moral
standards, wandering aimlessly in the fog of indifferentism, no policy will
be effective for safeguarding both the concerns of nature and those of
society. Indeed, it is man who can build or destroy, respect or despise,
share or reject. The great problems posed by the agricultural sector, in
which you are directly involved, should be faced not only as "technical" or
"political" problems, but at their root as "moral problems".
8. It is therefore the inescapable responsibility of those who work with
the name of Christians to give a credible witness in this area.
Unfortunately, in the countries of the so-called "developed" world an
irrational consumerism is spreading, a sort of "culture of waste", which is
becoming a widespread lifestyle. This tendency must be opposed. To teach a
use of goods which never forgets either the limits of available resources
or the poverty of so many human beings, and which consequently tempers
one's lifestyle with the duty of fraternal sharing, is a true pedagogical
challenge and a very far-sighted decision. In this task, the world of those
who work the land with its tradition of moderation and heritage of wisdom
accumulated amid much suffering, can make an incomparable contribution.
9. I am therefore very grateful for this "Jubilee" witness, which holds up
the great values of the agricultural world to the attention of the whole
Christian community and all society. Follow in the footsteps of your best
tradition, opening yourselves to all the developments of the technological
era, but jealously safeguarding the perennial values that characterize you.
This is also the way to give a hope-filled future to the world of
agriculture. A hope that is based on God's work, of which the Psalmist
sings: "You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it (Ps 65: 10).
As I implore this visit from God, source of prosperity and peace for the
countless families who work in the rural world, I would like to impart an
Apostolic Blessing to everyone at the end of this meeting.
Before leaving the Pope said to those present:
I would like to thank you for this lovely evening, for the invitation and
for the beautiful link between the rural, agricultural world and modern
music. Thanks to everyone for the participation of representatives from all
the countries; this is the way that the whole universal Church lives and
celebrates the Jubilee. I wish you a good rest. Tomorrow another great
celebration awaits you. Let us hope for good weather.
| GENET |
| European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering |
| Hartmut MEYER (Mr) |
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| D - 38116 Braunschweig |
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