Letter from National Conferences of Catholic Bishops to the Leaders of the G8 Nations
Hon. David Cameron Prime Minister, United Kingdom
Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper Prime Minister, Canada
Hon. François Hollande President, French Republic
Hon. Angela Merkel Chancellor, Federal Republic of Germany
Hon. Enrico Letta President of the Council of Ministers, Repubblica Italiana (Italian Republic)
Hon. Shinzō Abe Prime Minister, Japan
Hon. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin President, Russian Federation
Hon. Barack Obama President, United States of America
Dear Leaders of the Group of 8 Nations:
On behalf of the Catholic bishops’ conferences in the G8 nations, we urge you to protect poor persons and assist developing countries at the upcoming G8 Summit in the United Kingdom. Pope Francis, in his inaugural homily, committed himself to “open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important….” The G8 nations, as leaders in the world community, should do no less.
Your focus on agriculture and nutrition ahead of the G8 Meeting is timely. In a world that has made great strides in improving food production and distribution, far too many of God’s children still go to bed hungry or suffer from a lack of nutrition, a tragedy that has lifelong consequences for health and educational achievement. In particular, there is a need to strengthen assistance to African countries in order to improve local agriculture.
The G8’s attention to tax evasion, trade and transparency is equally timely. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes…” (No. 2240). It is a moral obligation for citizens to pay their fair share of taxes for the common good, including the good of poor and vulnerable communities, just as states also have an obligation to provide “a reasonable and fair application of taxes” with “precision and integrity in administering and distributing public resources”
(Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 355).
Trade and trade rules must serve the universal common good of the whole human family and the special needs of the most vulnerable nations. It is counterproductive to provide agricultural development assistance on the one hand and then to use unfair agricultural trade policies that harm the agricultural economics of poorer nations on the other.
The G8’s emphasis on transparency is critical. Human dignity demands truth, and democracy requires transparency. With more and better information, civil societies, including faith-based organizations, can hold their governments accountable and help insure that resources reduce poverty and improve the health of the whole society.
In his Easter message, Pope Francis lamented: “Peace to the whole world, torn apart … by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources!” Sadly, the peoples of many nations that are blessed with an abundance of natural resources find themselves victims of a paradox that some refer to as the “resource curse.” Genuine transparency and participation can change the “resource curse” into a blessing.
In word and gesture, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminds all of us to act in ways that protect “the poorest, the weakest, the least important.” By asking first how a given policy will affect the poor and the vulnerable, you can help assure that the common good of all is served. As a human family we are only as healthy as our weakest members.
We pray that your meeting will be blessed by a spirit of collaboration that enables you to take steps to improve nutrition, reduce hunger and poverty, and strengthen just tax, trade and transparency policies for the common good of all.
Most Rev. Vincent Nichols Archbishop of Westminster and President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
Seán Cardinal Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland and President, Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Most Rev. Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow and President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland
Most Rev. Richard Smith Archbishop of Edmonton, President, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris and President of the Bishops’ Conference of France (Conférence des Évêques de France)
Most Rev. Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg and President of the German Bishops’ Conference (Deutsche Bischofskonferenz)
Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco Archbishop of Genoa and President, Episcopal Conference of Italy
Most Rev. Leo Jun Ikenaga, SJ Archbishop of Osaka and President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
Most Rev. Paolo Pezzi, FSCB Archbishop of Madre di Dio a Mosca and President, Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation
Timothy Cardinal Dolan Archbishop of New York and President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Reinhard Cardinal Marx Archbishop of Munich and Freising President, Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community