Put people first

By 
  • June 17, 2010
The billion-dollar cost for the upcoming summits of world leaders is obscene and the disruption the meetings will cause is outrageous. Ottawa is rightly being roasted on those scores. But the real tragedy from the gathering of G8 and G20 leaders is that, once again, there seems to be a famine of big ideas among the world’s most powerful statesmen.

We’re not so naive to believe there are quick fixes for a world that is broken in so many ways. Most of society’s problems are either made or exacerbated by man. That is true whether speaking about oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, war in Afghanistan, famine and disease in Africa, poverty among North American aboriginal peoples, blockades in Gaza and international financial turmoil. The list goes on.

There is no simple remedy for all of this, but there is a blueprint to begin the slow road to an economic, moral and spiritual recovery of the planet. It was presented to the world one year ago by Pope
Benedict XVI when he released his encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

If the goal of the G8 and G20 summits is simply to improve the life and fortune of the world’s richest nations, then Caritas in Veritate does not apply. But if the developed world is ready to embrace a genuine commitment to work towards the common good of all people, then Benedict’s words provide a worthy framework to reshape the world. They are words worth remembering as world leaders and their entourages land in Canada.

Paramount, wrote Benedict, is that economic activity be directed towards the common good. Untamed capitalism and its ethos of wealth creation fueled the greed and selfishness that contributed so heavily to the global recession of 2008-09 and the current financial crisis in Europe. The Church does not oppose wealth creation but, rather than an end unto itself, urges that wealth become a means of creating a just society that promotes freedom and human rights, provides dignity for all people and ensures respect for the environment.

To that end, Benedict says economic and financial policies must be guided by ethical and moral principles that are “people-centred.” He urges that the poor not be considered a burden but an untapped resource that seeks productive work and a fair wage in order to pull themselves from poverty. As much as short-term aid, the poor require long-term opportunity and access to markets in developed countries. In return they will help elevate all of society.

The world is in need of a profound renewal, said Benedict, and he has called on statesmen to shape “a new vision for the future” that emphasizes integrity, morality and social responsibility. The G8 and G20 summits provide an opportunity for world leaders to heed that call. We hope they’ve been listening.

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