Reaffirming Global Solidarity, Restoring Humanity
Casina Pio IV, 22 February 2016
PASS President Margaret Archer
It’s a great pleasure and honour to have you – you are what I call our senior collaborators – with us and to say welcome to all the distinguished visitors who are present here today. Whether you are religious leaders, come as heads of humanitarian agencies or as major donors, we all represent people of good will and, as you know, it is not only the Encyclical Laudato si’ which is addressed to all people of good will, every social encyclical is so addressed, so our social enterprise is a very ecumenical one and we hope that, through our actions and the decisions you take here today, we will be able to galvanize action for that 125 million people who are the poorest of the poor and are suffering most at the moment, who are the most in need of humanitarian assistance.
We two Academies that have this lovely Casina Pio IV as our home base have been exerting some influence and much of that has been through United Nations agencies. Within weeks of becoming named as Pope, Pope Francis sent us in the Academy of Social Sciences a handwritten note in which he said, “Please examine the question of human trafficking, including organ trafficking”, and we took up his brief.
We have had many activities that I won’t bore you with, but they are all available on our website, and the objective, of course, was the UN meeting of August 2015 when the new Sustainable Development Goals were being designated, and our whole aim was to have human trafficking included – the abolition obviously – among those Goals. It was not to be taken for granted by any means, because, as our great friend Jeffrey Sachs – who helped us throughout – said, at the time that we met the Secretary General, “There is a draft and not one comma do they wish to change”.
Well, that may have been their wish, but things went on until the night of 30 August when Bishop Marcelo and I telephoned, emailed anybody whose contact address we had for the Declaration that was going to appear the next morning and, of course, we were delighted when Clause 8.7 was included and the abolition of human trafficking, forced labour, child labour, were all component parts of the new SDGs.
On the other hand, we have a fellow Academy, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, our big sister, much older than the Social Science Academy and we have worked more and more closely together with them, and the target there was the COP 21 meetings in December last year, in Paris, and again it was far from sure what the outcome would be. It gave us huge encouragement when we saw the Eiffel Tower saying 1.5 degree max!
We hope that our presence there – of course, the Vatican delegation only enjoys Observer status – but out of the 195 countries present, over a hundred consulted one or other of us, so we didn’t feel that we had been superfluous, and although there remains a tremendous amount to do about the practicalities, at least we have the agreement that this is the common goal we work to for the common good of humankind.
Now, that sounds far too celebratory about our successes: these are important, of course, but pieces of paper do not change the lives of anybody, they are just a means, they are part of a process, as this meeting is, and unfortunately I know that many of our Academicians are saddened, as I’m sure many of you are, by the intensification of displaced migrants, by the response that asylum seekers are receiving, particularly in Europe, and by what one can only call “the hostile reactions” of some countries. We should not be talking about erecting razor wire or building walls across the bottom of the United States and the top of Mexico to keep our fellow human beings out and I have to say, although I am British, I’m not proud of my government’s record in this respect. 20,000 migrants admitted by 2020 is far, far too small.
But the other cause of sadness is that, in many ways, Europe has been a disappointment in this respect, a mixture of some very generous efforts at the beginning, and a growing sense, unfortunately, of disillusionment, increasingly so, over the last three months and unless there is a European pact there is no way of solving this situation within Europe. It is not the only part of the world that is suffering, but it is the part of the world that perhaps we can do something most about here.
In conclusion, I’d simply like to repeat my welcome to you, it’s really good to have you here in the Vatican, though I should stress that the pursuit of all our humanitarian aims are ecumenical, they are so ecumenical that the things we have done on human trafficking and climate change – and I hope today – are acceptable in secular terms to people of goodwill everywhere in the world. And I think there are just three contributions that we can make from here, and perhaps this is why you have been generous enough to wish to have your meeting here: we can add the moral authority that is already contained in Laudato si’. Secondly, we can try to add our voice to increasing popular awareness about the sufferings that are going on globally, rather than leaving it to the media to trivialize questions like starvation, complete homelessness, total disorientation and instead to tell us stupid stories about lost cats, which is one that I was told last night, and this seems to be dwarfing everything else.
And, finally, I hope we can, as the Roman Catholic Church, do something towards mobilisation because we have one huge advantage: we are not exclusively a social movement, though we do have claims to be one of the oldest ones, if anybody wants to appropriate them – personally I’m very proud to do – and by mobilisation we can make use of something that we possess and very few other organizations do, namely a global network, a global network of parish churches made up of ordinary people, of various religious orders working in different parts of the world and working strenuously there and all of this, we hope, will make a significant contribution to the endeavours that we’re going to discuss during this meeting, so welcome to everybody. May the outcome be successful.
Now I have the pleasure and privilege again of handing over to Archbishop Gallagher, who will make the opening presentation.
Thank you everybody.