Pope Francis demanded Monday that world governments collectively commit to end rising world hunger by resolving the conflicts and climate change-related disasters that force people to leave their homes in search of their daily bread.
Francis drew a standing ovation Monday at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, where he marked the U.N.’s World Food Day by calling for governments to work together to tackle the interconnected problems of hunger, global warming and migration.
He cited the Paris climate accord, in which governments committed to capping heat-trapping emissions, as an example of taking action to fight global warming based on scientific evidence. But in what appeared to be a jab at the United States, which has announced it is withdrawing from the accord, Francis lamented that “unfortunately some are distancing themselves from it.”
Francis said negligence and greed over the world’s limited resources are harming the planet and its most vulnerable people, forcing many to abandon their homes in search of work and food.
“We are called to propose a change in lifestyle and the use of resources,” Francis told the audience, which included agriculture ministers from the Group of Seven nations. “We cannot make do by saying ‘someone else will do it.'”
Last month, the U.N. reported that the number of chronically hungry people in the world was rising again after a decade of declines thanks to prolonged conflicts and climate change-related floods and droughts. While the 815 million chronically undernourished people last year is still below the 900 million registered in 2000, the U.N. warned that the increase “is cause for great concern.”
Francis said the answer wasn’t to reduce the world’s population but rather to better manage the planet’s abundant resources and prevent waste. Francis called the population control argument — which the Catholic Church has long opposed — a “false solution.”
Rather, he called for a new model of international cooperation that incorporates love, fraternity and solidarity into responding to the needs of the poorest.
Francis said it’s not enough to respond with pity, “because pity is limited to emergency aid.”
Love, he said, “inspires justice and is essential to bring about a just social order.”
In a tangible sign of his message, Francis’ gift to the U.N. food agency to commemorate his visit was a marble sculpture of Aylan, the toddler who washed up on a Turkish beach in October 2015. The sculpture, which features a wailing angel over the little boy’s corpse, symbolizes the tragedy of migration, the Vatican said.