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From the Vatican Information Service


VATICAN CITY, NOV 30, 1998 (VIS) - Participants in a conference in Rome

organized by the Council of the Interparliamentary Union were received this

morning by the Pope who, in his talk to them, spoke of the problem of

malnutrition in the world and underlined the "right to food of each and

every person on earth." He also asked that the external debts of poor

countries be eased or cancelled.

He reminded his guests that they had made a commitment during the 1996

FAO food summit in Rome, to try "to reduce by half the number of people who

suffer from malnutrition" by the year 2015 and "to put into place juridical

frameworks of reference suitable for directing a development of world

agriculture which respects the environment."

The Pope said he recognized the difficulties inherent in achieving such a

goal, adding that their program to do so is "realistic ... but it is also

an ambitious and generous program." He stressed that the Church's mission

in this regard is "to unceasingly support all men and women of good will

who seek such solutions."

"An acceptable perception of the international economy must, always and

without exception, satisfy the right to food of each and every person on

earth. ... Natural catastrophes, international conflicts or civil wars must

never be excuses not to respect this obligation." He also affirmed that

political decisions in this regard must always bear in mind the common

good, and must not be influenced by national or sectarian interests.

"How can we not mention in this context," the Holy Father stated, "the

problem of the external debt of the poorest countries as well as the

difficulty that many developing countries have in getting access to credit"

in just and favorable conditions. "May God enlighten politicians in the

more well-to-do countries to find the means" of "easing or cancelling

outright the burdens which are so heavy and which are crushing the most

disadvantaged populations of so many regions of the world!"