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Moral values part of economic recovery: Pope

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The idea raised by Pope Benedict XVI in his latest encyclical of world powers, in co-operation with poorer countries, monitoring the health of global economies for the good of all could be one that’s taking hold. Catholic News Service correspondent CINDY WOODEN reports

POPE Benedict XVI’s call for an international authority with “real teeth” to guide the global economy could be realised with the creation of a United Nations “socio-economic security council” to stand alongside the current Security Council dedicated to peacekeeping, an economist who advises the Vatican said.

Stefano Zamagni, a professor of economic policies at the University of Bologna, Italy, and a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spoke on July 7 at the Vatican press conference held to present Pope Benedict’s encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth.”)

Pope Benedict wrote that the current financial crisis demonstrated just how little control national governments have over the process of globalisation and the interdependence of the world’s economy.

The Pope called for the reform of the United Nations, as well as of international bodies involved in economics and finance.

The reform, he said, should help ensure that the world’s poorer countries have a voice in economic decisions impacting everyone.

The reform should aim to revive ailing economies, protect the environment, provide food security and promote peace more effectively, he said.

Prof Zamagni said the fact that the Pope spoke about the need to include a wide range of voices in decision-making and to uphold the principle of subsidiarity – that decisions on local matters should be made at the local level – made it clear that he was not proposing “a kind of super-state”, but wanted internationally recognised institutions to have the power to intervene when lives were at stake.

The United Nations, he said, has “a security council for military affairs. Why don’t we have one for socio-economic affairs? If we did, the crisis of 2007-2008, which saw the price of grains triple despite an increased supply”, might have been resolved more quickly.

The increase in grain prices triggered food emergencies throughout the world’s poorer countries and has been identified as one of the first signs of what became the global financial crisis.

Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi of Trieste, Italy, who served as secretary of the justice and peace council until July 4, said the Vatican did not have a concrete plan to propose for the reorganisation, and it was not the Vatican’s place to design a new system; it simply was encouraging UN member states to get serious about reforming the institution.

Cardinal Renato Martino, who is Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace president and the former Vatican observer at the United Nations, said every pope since Pope John XXIII had called for a reform of the United Nations to make it more efficient and more effective.

Cardinal Martino told journalists that “Caritas in Veritate” marked a further step in the Church’s recognition of its obligation to promote the salvation and well-being of all people and its efforts to “guarantee Christianity has the ‘right of citizenship’ in building human society”.

Catholic social teaching, he said, used the unchanging principles of the Gospel and applied them to the ever-changing situation in which peoples and societies found themselves.

“The Church does not have technical solutions to propose, as ‘Caritas in Veritate’ itself reminds us, but it has the obligation to enlighten human history with the light of truth and with the warmth of the love of Jesus Christ,” he said.

“This is not an encyclical on the economic crisis,” he said, but because it speaks of the various forces involved in promoting or retarding development, it had to address the crisis.

“In a year or two, the crisis will be over, but the points of the encyclical will still be valid,” Cardinal Martino said.

Cardinal Paul Cordes, who is president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and co-ordinates Catholic charitable giving, said the social doctrine of the Church was not a political program because the Church was not interested in creating “a theocracy where the valid principles of faith” were imposed on believers and non-believers alike.

“Instead, the social doctrine commits Christians, first of all, to incarnate their faith” in the way they live and act in the political, social and economic spheres, he said.

Archbishop Crepaldi said the central message of the Pope’s encyclical was that people have a vocation, a call from God, to act righteously in the economy and at work, in their families and communities and to work for the common good in all those areas.

“If goods are only goods, if the economy is just the economy, if being together means only living alongside each other, if work is just production and progress is only growth,” he said, then there was nothing that inspired people to accept each other as brothers and sisters and help the weakest members of the human family.

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