(Photo: Reuters/Max Rossi)
Pope Francis has spoken out against the hunger crisis that millions of people around the world still face, saying that it is "truly scandalous" that in this day and age more isn't being done to help them, noting that the global economic crisis cannot be used as an excuse for inactivity.
"It is a well-known fact that current levels of production are sufficient, yet millions of people are still suffering and dying of starvation. This is truly scandalous," the Roman Catholic Church leader said in a speech on Thursday before 400 participants at the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization Conference.
"A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being."
The pontiff said that the purpose of the meeting was to "share the idea that something more can and must be done" to help the poor, and that they need more than simply goodwill and promises that often have not been kept.
According to world hunger statistics, 33 percent of the earth's population is considered to be starving. Close to 1.5 million children die from hunger every year, and as many as 98 percent of people who live in developing countries do not have enough to eat.
In his speech, Pope Francis also reminded the audience of the well-known parable in the Bible of the Good Samaritan.
"He is not prompted by philanthropy or the fact that he has money at his disposal, but by a desire to identify with the person he helps: he wants to share his lot. Indeed, after providing for the man's care, he announces that he will return to inquire after his health. What is involved here is more than mere compassion or perhaps a desire to share or to promote a reconciliation which can overcome differences and disagreements. It is a willingness to share everything and to decide to be Good Samaritans, instead of people who are indifferent to the needs of others," he continued.
The Vatican leader argued that the current global crisis cannot be used as an alibi for not helping people. "The crisis will not be completely over until situations and living conditions are examined in terms of the human person and human dignity," he said.
Pope Francis also promised that the Catholic Church and all of her structures and institutions are fully committed to aiding the fight against world hunger.
The Catholic leader has concerned himself heavily with the fate of the poor throughout his ministry, and has spoken out on the issue many times since being elected to the papacy earlier this year.
Earlier in June, the pointiff criticized those who are more concerned with the Stock Market rather than starving children and homeless people dying on the streets.
"If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that's not news, it seems normal. It cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities, is a tragedy. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash," the pope said.