11 December 2013

Pope Francis' plea: 'One Human Family, Food for All.' Guinea-Bissau's Catholics fast to help Filipinos

Yesterday, 10 December, Pope Francis published the video above. Below is the English translation of the text. I have highlighted some parts and added [comments].

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, I am happy to announce to you the launch of a campaign against global hunger by our very own Caritas Internationalis and to tell you that I intend to give my full support. This confederation, together with its 164 member organisations works in 200 countries and territories around the world and its work is at the heart of the mission of the Church and of Her attention towards all those who suffer because of the scandal of hunger, those with whom the Lord identified when he said, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat”.
Logo of Caritas Internationalis [Wikipedia]

When the Apostles said to Jesus that the people who had come to listen to his words were hungry, He invited them to go and look for food. Being poor themselves, all they found were five loaves and two fish. But with the grace of God, they managed to feed a multitude of people, even managing to collect what was left over and avoiding that it went to waste[In the Visayan languages spoken in the central Philippines and in most parts of Mindanao the word for 'leftovers; is 'bahaw'. This is the root word of 'pamahaw', which means 'breakfast' and can also mean 'snack'. In other words, the languages themselves indicate an attitude towards food that reflects that of the Gospel.]

We are in front of a global scandal of around one billion – one billion people who still suffer from hunger today. We cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist. The food available in the world is enough to feed everyone. The parable of the multiplication of the loaves and fish teaches us exactly this: that if there is the will, what we have never ends. On the contrary, it abounds and does not get wasted.
[Pope Francis is reminding us that the world's resources are capable of feeding everyone.]

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to make space in your heart for this emergency of respecting the God-given rights of everyone to have access to adequate food. We share what we have in Christian charity with those who face numerous obstacles to satisfy such a basic need. At the same time we promote an authentic cooperation with the poor so that through the fruits of their and our work they can live a dignified life. [Very often those who provide food - farmers and fishermen - and those who provide medical services - nurses from the Philippines and India in many parts of the world - don't have enough food for themselves or access at home to the medical services they provide for others overseas.]

I invite all of the institutions of the world, the Church, each of us, as one single human family, to give a voice to all of those who suffer silently from hunger, so that this voice becomes a roar which can shake the world.

This campaign is also an invitation to all of us to become more conscious in our food choices, which often lead to waste and a poor use of the resources available to us. It is also a reminder to stop thinking that our daily actions do not have an impact on the lives of those who suffer from hunger first-hand. [I have eaten in restaurants in the USA where the portions served were so big that they were impossible to finish. What's left over in this situation is wasted food. On the other hand, when I made retreats in the Jesuit Retreat House in Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 1982 I noticed that our evening meal was always a tasty makeover of what hadn't been consumed at lunch. The highlighted sentence just above expresses what I experienced there.]

I ask you from the bottom of my heart to support our Caritas organisations in this noble campaign where they will act as one human family to ensure food for all. 

Let us pray that the Lord gives us the grace to envisage a world in which no one must ever again die of hunger. And asking for this grace, I give you my blessing.

Downtown Bissau, capital of Guinea-Bissau [Wikipedia]

By a very happy coincidence the message of Pope Francis comes the day after this story:

On Monday 9 December the bishops of the two dioceses in Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony in west Africa with a land area of 36,000 square kilometers, roughly the combined land areas of Samar, Leyte and Panay, the three largest of the islands of the Philippines that were partly devastated by Supertyphoon Haiyan/Yolanda last month, asked their people to fast on 13 December in order to help the victims of that storm.

Guinea-Bissau has a population of less than 1,700,000 while that of the Philippines is around 100,000,000. While more than 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholics only about twelve percent of the people of Guinea-Bissau are Catholics: 80,000,000 Filipino Catholics and 200,000 in the west African country. The nominal GDP per capita of the Philippines in 2013 is estimated to be US$2,792 while that of Guinea-Bissau in 2012 was US$551 [source: Wikipedia].

I asked the three staff members in the editorial office of Misyon if they knew where Guinea-Bissau was. They didn't know and I don't think they had even heard of it. I doubt too if very many people in Guinea-Bissau know where Tacloban City is, or even the Philippines itself.

Pope Francis reminds us in his message how Jesus fed the thousands with only five loaves and two fishes. Surely the generosity of the Catholics of Guinea-Bissau in responding to the needs of the victims of Haiyan/Yolanda is a reminder of the power of God's love as expressed in the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and in the widow's mite, which Jesus noticed and pointed out to his disciples.

Typical scenery in Guinea-Bissau [Wikipedia]

Bissau - In the spirit of the liturgical season of Advent, the Bishops of the dioceses in Guinea Bissau and Bafata , His Exc. Mgr. Pedro Zilli and His Exc. Mgr. José Camnate na Bissign have invited all the diocesan communities to a "Day of fasting and prayer for peace in the world, in Africa and in Guinea-Bissau" to be held on December 13. According to information sent to Fides Agency by the Diocese of Bissau, in presenting the initiative, the Bishops point out: "May our prayer and our fasting lead us to accept peace through a life marked by truth, justice and reconciliation. World leaders, Africans and Guineans must think about the poorest of the poor. The democratic spirit must fill the hearts of everyone, especially of politicians and the military".
In tune with the wave of international solidarity in favor of the Philippines, a nation deeply wounded by Typhoon Haiyan, the Bishops recommend to all parish communities that "the fruit of fasting has to be destined to the victims of this natural disaster". Furthermore, the Catholic Church promotes a fundraiser for the Filipino people until Sunday, December 22. On 6 and 7 December there was the usual Marian Pilgrimage to the Guinean National Shrine of Our Lady of the Nativity in Cacheu. Since we have just concluded the Year of Faith, the motto of the pilgrimage chosen was: "With Mary, we walk in the light of faith". As usual there were many young people and adults who carried out the pilgrimage on foot, marked by prayer and sacrifice. More than four thousand faithful then took part in the Mass of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, concelebrated by the Bishops of the two dioceses , which was also attended by representatives of the state and the Muslim community.

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