Catholic leaders, including the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), have reminded the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised nations to protect poor people and assist developing countries when they meet in Northern Ireland in mid-June.
Quoting Pope Francis’s inaugural homily, 11 church leaders from the G8 nations urged the heads of those countries to “do no less” than “embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.”
The plea was made in a letter, dated June 3, that was sent to the G8 leaders. Steven Colecchi, director of the US bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace, said: “This letter emerged because the bishops’ conferences decided they wanted to do this together. They thought doing this together would have greater impact.”
The meeting of the G8 leaders will take place from June 17-18 at Lough Erne resort in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. British Prime Minister David Cameron will assume the G8 presidency during the meeting.
The letter addressed the priorities outlined by Cameron for his one-year term as G8 president: strengthening the global economy by generating long-term growth, jobs and prosperity. He also has said he wants to emphasise openness in economies, governments and societies through the support of free trade, tackling tax evasion and encouraging greater transparency and accountability in government actions.
In their letter, the church leaders commended the G8 officials for focusing on agriculture and nutrition ahead of the summit and called for particular emphasis to be placed on Africa, where the need to improve local agriculture is great and, according to the World Food Program, 23 million primary-school-age children attend classes hungry.
The church leaders cited G8 plans to address tax evasion by wealthy individuals and large corporations in a world facing severe financial shortfalls to address poverty. Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, the prelates wrote that “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.”
The letter stressed that economic 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.”
Signatories to the letter included Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the USCCB president; German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community; and Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, president of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Others signees included Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, Alberta, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.