Pope to Ambassadors: Greatest poverty is lack of love

2012-05-05 Vatican Radio

“Allowing everyone the opportunity to know God, and in full freedom, means helping to forge a strong interior personality which enables people to witness to good and accomplish good even if it comes at a cost” said Pope Benedict Friday as he received a group of non-resident Ambassadors to the Holy See from the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Malaysia, Ireland, the Republic of Fiji and Armenia. Emer McCarthy reports Listen:

As has become tradition the Holy Father delivered one general address to the group which focused on how openness to God in society can help overcome the ‘spiritual and material’ poverty that the current economic crisis has produced.

The Pope began by noting how mass communications has made our planet “smaller” and people more aware of the great suffering caused by poverty which is “dramatically developing” and has taken on “new forms”.

Globalisation, Pope Benedict said, has led people to “believe in the possibility of unlimited enjoyment and consumption”, but now that the necessary means to satisfy these needs are lacking, “feelings of frustration have emerged”, resulting in “an increase in loneliness due to exclusion”, a widening gap between rich and poor and “a perception of unfairness” that can become a source of rebellion.

He called on States to ensure that the social laws do not increase inequalities, adding that in order to strengthen the human foundation of the socio-political reality, “we must be attentive to another kind of poverty: that of the loss reference to spiritual values, to God”.

This vacuum – he continued - makes discernment between good and evil more difficult and adherence to fashionable ideals easier. Subsequently, “many young people in search of an ideal, turn to artificial paradises which destroy them. Addiction, consumerism and materialism, do not fill the heart of man made for infinity. For the greatest poverty is the lack of love”.

Pope Benedict said: “In distress, compassion and selfless listening are a great comfort. Even without great material resources, it is possible to be happy. Living simply in harmony with what we believe, should remain a possibility”.

Finally he concluded, “religion permits us to recognize in the other a brother in humanity”.

Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s address, delivered in French:

“Ladies and Gentlemen Ambassadors,

It is with joy that I welcome you this morning for the presentation of your Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective countries to the Holy See: the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Malaysia, Ireland, the Republic of Fiji and Armenia. You have come to express the cordial greetings of your Heads of State and I thank you. Would you please convey to them my greetings and my respectful wishes for them and the high office they perform in service to their country and their people. I also wish to greet through you, all the civil and religious authorities of your Nations and all of your compatriots. My thoughts also turn naturally to the Catholic communities in your countries, to assure them of my prayers”.

“The development of mass communications has made our planet, somehow, smaller. The ability to know almost immediately the events taking place worldwide, just as the needs of peoples and individuals, is an urgent call to be close to them in their joys and in their difficulties. The reality of the great suffering caused worldwide by poverty and misery, both material and spiritual, invites a new mobilization to respond, in justice and solidarity, to all that threatens human society and its environment”.

“Urban migration, armed conflict, famine and pandemics, which affect so many people, dramatically develop poverty which today has taken on new forms. The global economic crisis has brought more and more families to an increasingly precarious situation. While the creation and multiplication of needs led people to believe in the possibility of unlimited enjoyment and consumption, once the necessary means to satisfy these needs were lacking, feelings of frustration emerged. Loneliness due to exclusion increased. And when poverty coexists with the very rich, a perception of unfairness is born that can become a source of rebellion. It is therefore appropriate that States ensure that the social laws do not increase inequalities and enable people to live decently”.

“For this, consideration must be given to helping people overcome this shortfall, by rendering them actors in their society, enabling them to take charge of their own future, helping them to occupy a place within society according to their abilities. Because "man is more precious for what he is than for what he has" (CONC. VAT. II, Gaudium et spes, 35). Development for which every nation aspires each should concern the integral person, not economic growth alone. This belief must become an effective will for action. Experiments such as microcredit, and initiatives to create equitable partnerships, show that it is possible to harmonize economic goals with social needs, democratic governance and respect for nature. It is also good, for example […] to promote manual labour and to promote an agriculture that is first of all at the service of the inhabitants”. “The quality of human relationships and resource sharing are the foundation of society, allowing each to have his or her place and live with dignity in accordance with their aspirations”.


“For strengthening the human foundation of the socio-political reality, we must be attentive to another kind of poverty: that of the loss reference to spiritual values, to God. This vacuum makes discernment between good and evil as well as the overcoming of personal interests for the common good, more difficult. It makes it easier to adhere to ideals currently in fashion and avoid the necessary effort of reflection and criticism. And many young people in search of an ideal, turn to artificial paradises which destroy them. Addiction, consumerism and materialism, do not fill the heart of man made for infinity. For the greatest poverty is the lack of love. In distress, compassion and selfless listening are a great comfort. Even without great material resources, it is possible to be happy. Living simply in harmony with what we believe, should remain a possibility, and become ever more possible. I encourage all efforts undertaken, particularly in favour of families. Moreover, education must awaken to the spiritual dimension as "the human being develops when he grows in the spirit" (Caritas in veritate, 76). Such education helps build and strengthen more authentic bonds because it opens up to a more fraternal society which it helps to build”.

“States have the duty to promote their cultural and religious heritage which contributes to the development of a nation, and to facilitate access to all, for in familiarising oneself with history, each individual is brought to discover the roots of his or her own existence. Religion permits us to recognize in the other a brother in humanity. Allowing all the opportunity to know God, and in full freedom, means helping to forge a strong interior personality which enables him to witness to good and accomplish good even if it comes at a cost. "Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity" (Caritas in veritate, 78). In this way we can build a society where experiences of sobriety and fellowship will help reduce poverty, and take precedence over the indifference and selfishness of profit and waste, and above all over exclusion”.