Vatican City, 9 May 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, and the leading executive officers of the agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations and specialised organisations, gathered in Rome for the biannual meeting for strategic coordination of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board.
In his address, the Pontiff thanked the those who are primarily responsible for the international system, “for the great efforts being made to ensure world peace, respect for human dignity, the protection of persons, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and harmonious economic and social development”. He also congratulated them on the results of the Millennium Development Goals, especially in terms of education and the decrease in extreme poverty, adding however, that “it must be kept in mind that the world’s peoples deserve and expect even greater results” since “an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens”.
Therefore, future sustainable development goals must be “formulated and carried out with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labour for all, and provide appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development. Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the 'economy of exclusion', the 'throwaway culture' and the 'culture of death' which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted”.
The Holy Father explained that the spirit that should be “at the beginning and end of all political and economic activity” may be found in “the encounter between Jesus Christ and the rich tax collector Zacchaeus, as a result of which Zacchaeus made a radical decision of sharing and justice, because his conscience had been awakened by the gaze of Jesus. The gaze, often silent, of that part of the human family which is cast off, left behind, ought to awaken the conscience of political and economic agents and lead them to generous and courageous decisions with immediate results, like the decision of Zacchaeus. … Today, in concrete terms, an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones, and to give back generously and lavishly whatever we may have earlier unjustly refused to others”.
“The account of Jesus and Zacchaeus teaches us that above and beyond economic and social systems and theories, there will always be a need to promote generous, effective and practical openness to the needs of others”, he continued. “Jesus does not ask Zacchaeus to change jobs nor does he condemn his financial activity; he simply inspires him to put everything, freely yet immediately and indisputably, at the service of others. Consequently, I do not hesitate to state, as did my predecessors, that equitable economic and social progress can only be attained by joining scientific and technical abilities with an unfailing commitment to solidarity accompanied by a generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level. A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society”.
“Consequently”, the Holy Father concluded, “while encouraging you in your continuing efforts to coordinate the activity of the international agencies, which represents a service to all humanity, I urge you to work together in promoting a true, worldwide ethical mobilisation which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded”.