Pope Francis calls for action as FAO conference 2017 starts

The Pope and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in 2016.

VATICAN CITY - Monday marks the first day of the FAO’s General Conference 2017, in its 40th session, which will run until the July 8. Although he was not able to attend the opening meeting, Pope Francis has published an open letter to all the participants of the inaugural ceremony. The letter was read out by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.

Over one thousand participants will be discussing how “to turn commitment into action” to achieve the Global Goal of Zero Hunger. The pontiff highlighted the need for action, stating that The Holy See “wishes to assist its efforts to promote not mere progress or development goals in theory, but rather the actual elimination of hunger and malnutrition.” He continued by highlighting the need for the FAO to “intervene specifically and undertake an adequate solitary action” when countries fail to meet levels of nutrition goals because of situations of insecurity or poverty. 

In the second part of his letter, Francis blamed the “indifference of many or the selfishness of a few” for the current world situation. He referenced the 2030 Development Agenda and the goal of “food security”, before emphasising that “only an effort inspired by authentic solidarity will be capable of eliminating the great number of persons who are undernourished and deprived of the necessities of life”, calling on FAO, all the Institutions of the international community, and the Church, to rise to the challenge. 

The pope ended on an optimistic note, in hope that the conference will provide adequate responses to the food crises, and called on God to “grant you the strength needed to contribute to the authentic progress of out human family”. He is due to visit the Rome headquarters of the FAO on World Food Day, 16 October 2017, at the invitation of its Director-General, José Graziano da Silva.