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Pope Francis Insists State Welfare Is the Answer to World Hunger

By: Guido Javier Burdman - Nov 25, 2014, 12:30 pm
El papa en la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura
Pope Francis has repeatedly blamed capitalism for the existence of hunger in the world. (FAO)

EspañolOn Thursday, Pope Francis criticized the global economic system, which he considers an impediment to the eradication of poverty. In his statements, he identified the state as the primary actor responsible for the elimination of hunger, while supporting the continuation of a controversial welfare system.

“It is painful to see that the fight against hunger and malnutrition has been impeded by the importance of the market and the preeminence of profit,” Jorge Bergoglio said in front of delegates of more than 170 countries at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAOSecond International Conference on Nutrition.

The pope praised the distribution of food aid to the hungry, while also criticizing charitable giving. “The starving man is there, just around the corner, and he asks to be recognized as a citizen who receives a healthy diet. He asks us for dignity, not charity,” said Francis, who took over as head of the Catholic Church in March 2013 after serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires for 15 years.

“There is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, misuse, excessive consumption, and the use of food for other purposes are happening right in front of us,” he said.

According to FAO statistics, there are currently 805 million people worldwide who do not have enough to eat, while 500 million suffer from obesity. Despite the large number of people in need around the world, the number of people suffering from hunger has dropped by 200 million since the early 1990s, and poverty levels are at historic lows.

Francis said governments around the world must be concerned with the well being of their citizens, and asked them to come to a “shared agreement” to further “the principles and norms that international law puts at their disposal.”

Short-Term Thinking

Norman Horn, founder of LibertarianChristians.com, disagrees with the pope’s economic perspective. While he respects and appreciates the pope very much, he does not share his vision as far as the distribution of food aid is concerned. In an interview with the PanAm Post, the libertarian Christian said the pope’s statements reflect “a poor understanding of the fundamental economics that drive food production.”

“By assuming that state action, which is increasingly centralized, can determine the proper levels of nutrition needed by every person in the word, and then effectively carry out the distribution of that food, the pope is completely overestimating the capabilities of any government,” Horn said.

He recommends governments “get out of the way of the market, so it can do its job — exactly the opposite of what Francis is proposing.”

According to Horn, who does not consider himself anti-Catholic, “short-term thinking is not going to resolve the real problems of poverty in the world.”

Pope Primarily Concerned with Hunger

This is not the first time the pope has spoken on the topic of hunger. He has criticized consumerism, excess, and food waste on numerous occasions. In a letter written to the FAO last year, he said, “It is an outrage that there is still hunger and malnutrition in the world.” He urged the world to not grow accustomed to these problems, “as if they were part of the system.”


We ask God for the grace that no one else in the world die of hunger.

“When we throw away food, it is as if we are stealing from the table of the poor, from those who are hungry,” said Francis in a 2013 public address in St. Peter’s Square.

In an interview last Christmas with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, the Argentinean made it clear that his greatest concern is hunger in the world.

Translated by Alex Clark-Youngblood.

Guido Javier Burdman Guido Javier Burdman

Guido Burdman is a 24-year-old journalist and international-relations student based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Follow @guidoburdman.