“Ironically, poor people have contributed the least to the economic crisis facing our world, but their lives and livelihoods are likely to suffer the greatest devastation because they struggle at the margins in crushing poverty,” the bishops said in a June 22 letter to G8 leaders. “In the faces of poor persons the Catholic Church sees the face of Christ, whom we serve in countries throughout the world.”
The G8 consists of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States, and each year on a rotating basis it holds a summit in one of its member nations to which leaders from other nations and global institutions can be invited.
In 2009, the meeting is hosted by Italy and is to take place July 8-10 in L’Aquila, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Rome.
“Our moral tradition commits the Church to protecting human life and dignity, especially of the poorest, most vulnerable members of the human family,” the bishops said.
Prior to the G8 meeting, Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso, a Catholic, is reportedly to meet Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on July 7. This is the day that Benedict is to release a new encyclical, titled “Caritas in Veritate,” which reports speculate will offer the pontiff’s analysis of the current economic crisis.
In Germany, the country’s highest ranking Protestant bishop said a “change in values” is needed to deal with the global financial and economic crisis.
“The foundation of our economy is responsible freedom,” Bishop Wolfgan Huber, who heads the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the country’s main
Protestant umbrella, said in Berlin on July 2. “Freedom degenerates when it is not accompanied by responsibility.” Huber was presenting a new statement by the council of the EKD, its main governing body, about the global financial crisis.
“What we need now is not just a cyclical recovery, but also a recovery of our values,” said Huber. “Responsibility means learning from this crisis, and a change of direction based on sustainable development.” Huber questioned, “whether we have learned anything from the shock” of the crisis, since international supervisory institutions still had not been, “sufficiently expanded and equipped to keep pace with the dynamics of the global financial markets.”
The Catholic leaders for their part urged the G8 nations to “meet their responsibility to promote dialogue with other powerful economies to help prevent further economic crises.” They also called on the leaders to “meet their commitments to increase Official Development Assistance in order to reduce global poverty and to achieve” the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which include halving extreme poverty by 2015, “especially in African countries.”
They urged the G8 countries to “strengthen peacekeeping so that armed conflicts do not continue to rob countries of the resources needed for development.”
The bishops said they were particularly concerned about the impact of climate change on the poor, “who have contributed the least to the human factors driving global climate change” but are “most at risk of its harmful consequences.”
They demanded concrete commitments and mechanisms to mitigate climate change and which would allow poor people and developing countries “to adapt to its effects as well as to adopt appropriate technologies for sustainable development.”
The bishops’ letter was signed by the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of England and Wales, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, Scotland, and the United States.