RELIGION
06/05/2013 11:45 am ET Updated Jun 05, 2013

Pope Francis On World Environment Day Speaks Of Food Waste, Lack Of Attention To Needs Of Poor

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Pope Francis took the occasion of World Environment Day to slam the influence of money and profit in the "human ecology" making the connection between the issues of the environment and poverty.

"When we talk about the environment, about creation, my thoughts turn to the first pages of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, which states that God placed man and woman on earth to cultivate and care for it," the Pope explained to the crowds of pilgrims and visitors to St. Peter’s Square. 'And the question comes to my mind: What does cultivating and caring for the earth mean? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it?'

The pope went on to talk of the relation between how humans treat the environment and how they treat one another:

The popes have spoken of human ecology, closely linked to environmental ecology. We are living in a time of crisis: we see this in the environment, but above all we see this in mankind ... Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the 'culture of waste.'

Pope Francis went on to stress what has become a recurrent theme for him: the contrast between how culture views the well-being of the financial world with the well-being and needs of the poor and the homeless.

If you break a computer it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs, the dramas of so many people end up becoming the norm. If on a winter’s night, here nearby in Via Ottaviano, for example, a person dies, that is not news. 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 Pontiff also addressed food waste, which is the theme of the United Nation's World Environment Day 2013.

"We should all remember, however, that throwing food away is like stealing from the tables of the the poor, the hungry! I encourage everyone to reflect on the problem of thrown away and wasted food to identify ways and means that, by seriously addressing this issue, are a vehicle of solidarity and sharing with the needy."

More from Reuters:

VATICAN CITY, June 5 (Reuters) - Pope Francis denounced on Wednesday what he called a "culture of waste" in an increasingly consumerist world and said throwing away good food was like stealing from poor people.

"Our grandparents used to make a point of not throwing away leftover food. Consumerism has made us accustomed to wasting food daily and we are unable to see its real value," Francis said at his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square.

"Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry," he said.

Since taking office in March, Pope Francis has said he wants the 1.2-billion-strong Roman Catholic Church to defend the poor and to practise greater austerity itself. He has also made several calls for global financial reform.

Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food, or one third of what is produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted every year, according to the United Nations' food agency.

In the industrialised world the majority of waste is by consumers, often because they buy too much and have to throw away what they do not manage to eat.

A U.N.-backed study released on Wednesday said simple measures such as better storage and reducing over-sized portions would sharply reduce the vast amount of food going to waste.

In U.S. restaurants, diners wasted nine percent of the meals they bought, partly because of a trend to increase the size of everything from cheeseburgers to soft drinks, said the report by the World Resources Institute and the U.N. Environment Programme.

Francis said the "culture of waste" was especially deplorable given the prevalence of hunger in the world. The United Nations says hunger affects some 870 million people, while 2 billion suffer from at least one nutritional deficiency.

The Argentinian-born pontiff warned that too much focus on money and materialism meant financial market dips were viewed as tragedies while human suffering had become normal and ignored.

"In this way people are discarded as if they were garbage," he said. (Reporting by Catherine Hornby in Vatican City, Alister Doyle in Oslo, Terrence Edwards in Ulan Bator, Deborah Zabarenko in Washington; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Gareth Jones)

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