Workers unload wheat grains in Egypt that has been working to achieve self-sufficiency in what production after the Russia-Ukraine war Workers unload wheat grains in Egypt that has been working to achieve self-sufficiency in what production after the Russia-Ukraine war  (ANSA)

Pope: Food must never be used as a weapon

Pope Francis reflects on the “vocation” of those who work in agriculture and participate in food production and on their responsibility to help ensure that food distribution may never become a weapon or element of speculation.

By Linda Bordoni

Those who work the land, who care for the crops and for livestock, Pope Francis said, are prime witnesses of the integral ecology the world is in need of, and he highlighted their responsibility in ensuring that food production and distribution never become a weapon of war or a mechanism of economic or political speculation.

Addressing a group of young farmers from Spain – members of the Asociación Agraria Jóvenes Agricultores - during an audience in the Vatican on Saturday, 13 May, the Pope recalled his own first-hand experience of the farming world as, he said, “Argentina is a country mainly dedicated to livestock farming and, although I am from the city, I have had the opportunity to get to know the reality of the fields.”

Speaking off-cuff he recalled an episode during his theology formation in which he found himself in a field and the city-born students expressed concern for “a dying cow”.

“The poor cow was there, giving birth. But being from the city, having eaten cement since I was a kid, I had no idea how to tell the difference between a dying cow and a cow giving birth, right? That's when I realised that there is a science that can only be acquired through living and experience,” he said.

The first ecologists

This, he explained has allowed him to understand that the people who work “with animals, with plants,” living each day “looking at the sky” and “recognizing in the chirping, bellowing or neighing the joy or fear, the longing or the fulfilment of nature around you,” are the first ecologists.

“The vocation to which God has called you makes you witnesses to the integral ecology that the world needs,” the Pope continued, and he said God calls them to collaborate in the task of creation caring for the earth and serving society.

“What then does God ask of you in this work? He asks you to think of the countryside as a gift, as something that has been given to you and that you will bequeath to your children; to think of production as a gift that the Lord, through you, sends to his people to satiate their hunger and quench their thirst.”

Food must never be used as a weapon

The Holy Father thanked those present for their dedication and reminded them of their responsibility – as elements who participate in food production, processing and distribution – to work so “this immense good that God gives us does not turn into a weapon.”

 “For example, by restricting the arrival of food to populations in conflict - or turning it into a mechanism of speculation, manipulating the price and marketing of products for the sole purpose of obtaining a greater benefit,” he explained.

“It is this that we must denounce, that must make our hearts ache; the animals you care for with such dedication do not deserve it, the people you enthusiastically work for do not deserve it, God does not deserve it. It offends them and it offends you.”

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13 May 2023, 11:59