Author Archives: bbfsp

WWI: Papal diplomacy during and after The Great War

Following a series of commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, this week attention turns to a world post-WWI, and Papal diplomacy.

Remembrance Day observing the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI (ANSA)

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the guns fell silent and an Armistice between warring nations was declared. When World War I began no one thought it would last for so long. Those who went off to fight expected to be back for Christmas. It was not to be, and for four long years Europe was ravaged and 16 million lives were claimed.

On Sunday 11th November 2018 in many countries around the world a 2 minute silence descended to remember the fallen in this conflict which changed the map of Europe. On Wednesday an international conference got underway focusing on Catholics and the Holy See in the post war world of 1918-1922. Fittingly, a diplomat and the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, addressed the gathering remarking that at the end of this war and under the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XV, “there was a clear awareness of witnessing upheavals of unprecedented depth, but also Catholic optimism ready to open up to new paths…for the mission of the Church.”

The war time Pope

Pope Benedict XV, who was elected in a Conclave at the outbreak of WWI, had been a career diplomat and according to Papal author and Emeritus Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Dr John Pollard, “saw the war as a tragedy and in some sense an unnecessary tragedy.” He also notes that Benedict’s diplomatic skills were to stand him in good stead before and after this lengthy campaign as, “he did understand the international scene and he also made an absolutely crucial appointment of Cardinal Pietro Gasparri as his Secretary of State. Gasparri, like Benedict, was a diplomat and had long diplomatic experience.”

The author of Pope Benedict XV, “The Unknown Pope”, said “he adopted very very quickly the position of neutrality and impartiality…”

World War I was in many respects different from wars that had been fought in the past and was seen as the first truly modern war. Aircraft, armoured vehicles, modern artillery and machine guns were the weapons of choice and they were used to deadly effect. This type of mechanized warfare, Dr Pollard says, horrified the Pontiff. “He was outraged by the new methods of warfare, i.e. the trench warfare; by the torpedoing of passenger merchant vessels; by the aerial bombardment; by the attacks on civilian populations.”

Cardinal Parolin and post-WWI diplomacy

In his address, at the Pontifical Lateran University, Cardinal Parolin underlined that following the Armistice that ended WWI the fundamental path to tread was that of peace.
“It was natural”, he said, “that pontifical diplomacy, which during the war had dedicated so many forces to the restoration of peace, should first of all seek, even after the end of hostilities, the true consolidation of peace and its basic presupposition – the relaxation of tensions.” The Cardinal also noted that ”the peace negotiations took place without the participation of the Holy See, excluded because of article 15 of the London Pact, but also because of the intervention of the secularist forces determined to oppose religious-ecclesiastical interference in international bodies. Nevertheless, Benedict XV did not renounce those cards that remained for him to intervene with: the pastoral word in public pronouncements, the mobilization of Catholic public opinion and the presence, at least unofficially, of his diplomatic representatives.”

Dr Pollard also alludes to the exclusion of the Holy See from these post war discussions and says that Benedict and his Secretary of State Gasparri, “were very concerned about the outcomes of the Versailles peace conference of 1919 and in the end they felt it was too harsh particularly on Germany; they did not feel that it was a really good basis for future peace.”

The Pope of Peace

History has a habit of looking back at the life of a Pope and applying a label; St John XXIII was known as “Good Pope John “ and Pope John Paul I was affectionately described as the “smiling Pope”. In Benedict XV’s case, he was known as the “Pope of Peace”. This Dr Pollard explains is due to the fact that “he very genuinely and quite persistently tried to get the belligerent powers to the negotiating table, not just with the famous peace note of August 1917, but on several occasions before that and even after the peace note, tried to persuade the powers to start negotiating.”

Speaking about this famous Peace Note, Cardinal Pietro Parolin commented that the document signified a “respect for justice and equity in relations between States and peoples, renunciation of reciprocal compensation, respect for the natural principle of nationality and the legitimate aspirations of peoples, fair access to material goods and means of communication for all, the reduction of arms, arbitration as a peaceful means of resolving conflicts. Significantly, the Pontiff preferred, instead of justice, to speak of equity, that is, of animated justice”, he said.

Papal Polices and the Path of Peace

So what is the legacy of Pope Benedict XV and his diplomatic efforts during and after this devastating war? According to the Cambridge Fellow, “the moral standing of the Papacy was enormously enhanced by Benedict’s policies during the war, one of the most important being the humanitarian efforts which the Vatican made; the Vatican ran a sort of relief effort for prisoners of war and for civilians… secondly, the war obliged many countries to have a second look at the Vatican”, such as Britain who re-established diplomatic relations with the Holy See very shortly after World War I started. Dr Pollard adds that, “it can be argued that, -with I think a great deal of conviction- that Benedict’s policies during the First World War really put the Holy See on the path of peace diplomacy, that it became its vocation, if you like, or one of its vocations and ever since, the Papacy has been very concerned about peace and also about broader issues of social justice in the world.”Lydia O’Kane, Vatican News, 15 Nov 2018

Marriage preparatory programs

Credit: Unsplash.

Singapore – The Archdiocese of Singapore has introduced a new policy to ensure couples are taking the time they need to properly prepare for marriage.

Catholics looking to getting married in any of the archdiocese’s 32 churches have to book their wedding date at least one year in advance, according to Catholic News.

Previously, the couples only had to notify the church six months before the wedding. Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye of Singapore made the decision in October after discussing the move with the archdiocese’s priests.

Couples must still undergo the same marriage preparatory programs, including a marriage course and a meeting with the priest who will preside over the wedding.

A Catholic spokesperson for the archdiocese told Strait Times that the new policy emphasizes the importance of the commitment of matrimony and helps Catholics prepare for it.

“In response to the feedback and to help our fellow Catholics prepare for such a major commitment in their lives, the Archbishop, in consultation with his Senate of Priests, is looking to refine the recommended policies presently in place,” he said.

“It marks the beginning of a journey that the Church and the couple take together to prepare the couple for their commitment to each other,” he added.

Numerous other Christian dominations in Singapore have similar requirements, which may range from six to nine months prior to the wedding day.

Daniel Seah is an engaged Catholic in Singapore who plans to get married in 2020. He told Straight Times that he was happy with the new policy.

“In my opinion, the divorce rate is quite high and I think the Church is looking at ways to help couples discern deeper if this is the right person for them before they walk down the aisle,” he said.

“Even if you book a hotel, you may also need to book one year in advance but people don’t grumble about that.” – CNA, 12 Nov 2018

World Diabetes Day focuses on role of families

More than 400 million people are currently living with diabetes worldwide.

On World Diabetes Day on Wednesday, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) is joining partners around the world to highlight the impact that diabetes has on families and the role of family members in supporting prevention, early diagnosis and good management of diabetes.

The theme for World Diabetes Day 2018 and 2019 is “The Family and Diabetes”.

Established in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) with support from WHO in response to growing concerns about the health and economic threat posed by diabetes, the November 14 World Diabetes Day became an official UN day in 2006.

More than 425 million people are currently living with diabetes worldwide, and the prevalence is predicted to continue rising if current trends prevail. Diabetes is a major cause of premature dying, blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and lower limb amputation. It was the seventh leading cause of death in 2016.

Growing numbers

Globally, an estimated 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980. The global prevalence of diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980, rising from 4.7% to 8.5% in the adult population.

This reflects an increase in associated risk factors such as being overweight or obese. Over the past decade, diabetes prevalence has risen faster in low and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.

The number of people with diabetes is expected to rise to 522 million by 2030.  Three out of four people with diabetes live in low and middle-income countries; 1 in 2 with diabetes (212 million) remain undiagnosed; less than 1 in 2 people with diabetes and 1 in 4 family members of people with diabetes have access to diabetes education programmes.

Type 2 diabetes

Most of these cases are type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable through regular physical activity, a healthy and balanced diet, and the promotion of healthy living environments.

Families have a key role to play in addressing the modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes and must be provided with the education, resources and environments to live a healthy lifestyle.

Besides the economic burden on the health-care system and national economy, diabetes can impose a large economic burden on people with diabetes and their families in terms of higher health-care costs and loss of family income associated with disability, premature death, and caring for disabled family members. – Robin Gomes, Vatican News, (Source: WHO/IDF), 14 Nov 2018

UNHCR urges “decisive action” for some 12 million stateless people

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said eliminating statelessness is the right thing to do, “humanly, ethically and politically”.

Stateless minority Rohingya people of Myanmar as refugees in Bangladesh. (AFP or licensors)

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR on Monday appealed to governments to take “decisive action” to eliminate the problem of statelessness, saying an estimated 12 million people may be its victims.

Regarding it as a grave human rights issue, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said eliminating the problem is the right thing to do, “ humanly , ethically and politically”.

In international law, a stateless person is one “who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”.  Statelessness can occur for several reasons, including discrimination against particular ethnic or religious groups, or on the basis of gender.

Fundamental human rights

Grandi said that stateless people “still face huge barriers to exercising fundamental human rights”, such as education, medical care or legal employment, and called on states to tackle discrimination in nationality laws, which is regarded as the biggest driver of the problem.

He called on “politicians, governments and legislators around the world to act now, to take and support decisive action to eliminate statelessness globally by 2024.”

“Humanly, ethically and politically it is the right thing to do. Every person on this planet has the right to nationality and the right to say I BELONG,” he said.

Countless in limbo

Grandi’s appeal came four years after the launch of UNHCR’s 10-year  #IBelong campaign to eradicate statelessness globally, in recognition that millions remain stateless and living in limbo around the world, with the majority in Asia and Africa.

According to UNHCR, no region of the world is untouched by statelessness with some countries having hundreds of thousands of stateless persons.

The very nature of statelessness means it is difficult to determine exactly how many people are affected, or at risk. In 2017, approximately 70 countries reported 3.9 million stateless individuals. But UNHCR estimates that this is only a fraction of the total and the true number could be three times higher.

Only 25 countries around the world retain gender discrimination in their legislation that prevents mothers from conferring their nationality to their children on an equal basis as men.

Among the targets of Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, is Goal 16, which calls for the elimination of statelessness, i.e. ensuring legal identity for all by 2030. – Robin Gomes (Source: UNHCR) 

Pope at Mass: bishop, a humble and meek servant, not a prince

During Mass, Monday morning, Pope Francis spoke about the qualities of a bishop that St. Paul speaks about in his letter to Titus.

Pope Francis at Mass on November 12, 2018. (Vatican Media)

A humble and meek servant, not a prince.  This is what a bishop should be according to Pope Francis.  Celebrating Holy Mass, Monday morning, at the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, he delivered a homily outlining the qualities of a bishop.

He took his cue from the Letter of St. Paul to Titus in the day’s Mass, that describes in detail the figure of a bishop, to bring order in the Church.

Church not born in complete order

The Pope pointed out that the Church was born amidst zeal and disorder but also “admirable things” were accomplished.  He noted that there is always confusion and disorder with the power of the Holy Spirit but we must not be afraid because it is a beautiful sign.

Speaking in Italian, the Pope explained that the Church was never born with everything in order, in place, without problems, or confusion – never.  However this confusion, this disorder, he said, must be resolved and put in order.  As an example, he pointed to the first Council of Jerusalem where there was a struggle between judaizers and non – judaizers , but the Council finally fixed the problem.  

Bishop, administrator of God not of goods

Pope Francis said that St. Paul leaves Titus in Crete to set things right, reminding him that “the first thing is faith“. At the same time, he provides some criteria and instructions on the figure of the bishop.

The Pope outlined the definition of a bishop as a “steward of God”, not of goods, power, mutual self-interest but only the interest of God.  The bishop always has to correct and ask himself, “Am I an administrator of God or a businessman?”  The bishop, the administrator of God must be irreproachable – something that God asked of Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be irreproachable”. This, the Pope said, is the basic quality of a leader.

Qualities of bishop

Pope Francis also spoke about what a bishop should not be.  He should not be arrogant or conceited, ill-tempered or giving in to drinking, one of the most common vices in Paul’s time, not a businessman or attached to money.  He said it would be a calamity for the Church if a bishop had only one of these defects. Instead, a bishop should be able to “give hospitality”, a “lover of good”, “sensible, just, holy, master of himself, faithful to the Word worthy of the faith that he was taught”.

The Holy Father said it would be nice to ask these questions at the beginning of an investigation before the election of bishops, before going ahead with other inquiries.  

According to Pope Francis, a bishop, above all must be humble and meek, a servant not a prince. This, he said, is the Word of God.  This, he said, is not something new after Vatican II but goes back much earlier to the time of Paul.  This is from the beginning when the Church realized that it had to fix the problem of bishops.

What counts before God is not being nice and preaching well but humility and service.  The Pope concluded urging for prayers for bishops so that “they may be, or we may be, as Paul asks us to be”. – Robin Gomes, Vatican news

Pope: 100 years from the ‘senseless slaughter’. We must invest in peace, not in war

At the Angelus, Pope Francis remembers the end of the Great War, and asks everyone to “reject the culture of war”. The gesture of St. Martin, of sharing with the poor, “shows everyone the way to build peace”. The “poor and generous widow as a model of Christian life to be imitated”. “To give to the Lord and our brothers and sisters not something of ours, but ourselves”. Thirteen consecrated men and three lay faithful, martyrs of the Spanish civil war, beatified in Barcelona. Next Sunday, November 18, the second World Day of the Poor is celebrated.

Vatican City – “Invest in peace, not war!” this was the appeal that, after the Angelus, Pope Francis addressed today to the whole world in memory of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which Benedict XVI defined “the senseless slaughter”. It is estimated that the war of 1915-1918 was one of the bloodiest with 37 million dead, counting 16 million killed and 20 million injured and mutilated both military and civilians.

Recalling that at 13.30 the bells of St. Peter, along with those of the whole world will sound in remembrance of the end of the conflict, Francis added that the memory of the 100 years “is a severe warning to reject the culture of war and to look for every legitimate means to put an end to the conflicts that still bleed several regions of the world “.

“While we pray for all the victims of that terrible tragedy – he continued – we say forcefully: invest in peace, not in war! And, as an emblematic sign, we take that of the great Saint Martin of Tours, who we remember today: he cut his cloak in two to share it with a poor man. This gesture of human solidarity indicates to everyone the way to build peace “.

Previously, commenting on today’s Gospel (32nd Sunday for year, B, Mark 12, 38-44), the Pope compared the two characters present in the passage: “the scribe and the widow. The first represents the important, rich, influential people; the other represents the last, the poor, the weak “.

The superiority and the vanity of the scribes, “leads them to contempt for those who count little or are in a disadvantageous economic position, like widows”. The widow instead, “goes to put in the treasury of the temple two coins, all that remained, she makes her offer trying to go unnoticed, almost ashamed. But, precisely in this humility, she performs an act charged with great religious and spiritual significance. That gesture full of sacrifice does not escape the attentive gaze of Jesus, who in fact sees the total gift of self shine to which he wants to educate his disciples “.

“Our ‘giving’ to God in prayer and to others in charity – he emphasized – should always shy away from ritualism and formalism, as well as from the logic of calculation, and be an expression of gratuitousness. Just as Jesus did. Jesus did not make us pay for redemption! … This is why Jesus indicates that poor and generous widow as a model of Christian life to be imitated … May the Virgin Mary, a poor woman who gave herself totally to God,  sustain us in the purpose of giving to the Lord and to the brothers not something of us, but ourselves, in a humble and generous offering “.

After the Marian prayer, Francis said that yesterday in Barcelona, ​​Fr. Teodoro Illera del Olmo (1883-1936) and fifteen fellow martyrs were beatified. These are thirteen consecrated persons and three lay faithful. “These new blesseds – the pontiff said – were all killed for their faith, in different places and dates, during the war and religious persecution of the last century in Spain. We praise the Lord for these courageous witnesses “. And he asked those present to applaud them.

Finally, the Pope recalled that next Sunday, November 18, the Second World Day of the Poor will be celebrated, with many initiatives of evangelization, prayer and sharing.

The Day was commissioned precisely by Pope Francis, to sensitize the world to sharing with the poor. “Even here in St. Peter’s Square – he said – a health clinic has been set up which will offer treatment to those in need for a week. I hope that this Day will foster an increasing attention to the needs of the last and the marginalized “. – AsiaNews, 11 Nov 2018

Tribute to the builder of CMI

Fr Thomas Sham

On the blessed occasion of Silver Jubilee celebration of CMI Church, it would not be complete without a dedication to its founder.  As an honour to his memory and contribution, here is a tribute to CMI builder, Fr. Thomas Sham (1920-2004):

Born on 15 Feb 1920 in Putatan, Thomas was the fifth child in a brood of three boys and four girls born to Lucas Sham Koi Yun and Helen Lee Kyun Yin.  The elder Sham was from China who sought his fortune in Borneo and later settled down in Putatan with a local girl.  He was converted to the Catholic Faith by Thomas Lee (Father of Abp Emeritus John Lee) who founded the Putatan Chinese School.

Thomas studied at the Putatan Chinese School from 1928-1932.  With his mother’s blessing he entered the Jesselton Minor Seminary.

Thomas attributed his vocation to a “man in white.”

When he was nine, he was walking with his brother to school when he saw a man in white clothing. “I was awestruck and attracted by the way the man was dressed up, especially in white.  Somehow, something happened and I wanted to dress like him when I grew up,” Thomas said. He asked his brother who the man was and was told that he was a priest (Fr. Joseph Felix Shek).

Baptised in 1932, Thomas was sent to the Major Regional Seminary in Hong Kong with Francis, the brother of Abp Emeritus Lee. He was ordained on 16 July 1946 in Canton China. Back in Borneo by ship in October 1946, Father Thomas served in Tawau, Papar, Kudat, Jesselton, Sandakan, Telipok, Kota Kinabalu, and Tanjung Aru.

Fr. Thomas decided to stay in Tanjung Aru after retiring from active ministry in 2000. Despite failing health, he continued to concelebrate Mass with his successor Father Fundes Motiung. He died on 17 Nov 2004 at the Sabah Medical Centre, Likas where he had been admitted since Nov 6.  He was 84. He was buried at the Mile 4.5 Catholic Cemetery Penampang Road by his nephew Father David Sham.

Well-known as a builder, Thomas acquired mission lands for construction or extension of church and school buildings, one of which is the Church of Mary Immaculate Bukit Padang.

Architect’s impression of CMI Extension (Right Angle)

Going back in history … how it all began

CMI was officiated and blessed by then Bishop John Lee on 31 October 1993.  It was a grand affair with  ribbon cutting and Eucharistic celebration in English and Chinese. But this is only a part of the church’s history.

As we go back further, the story started in 1990 as extracted from the archive of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu:

It came about when Fr Thomas Sham, who was then the pastor of the Sacred Heart Cathedral (1987-1988), noticed the way parishioners literally had to force their way into the church compound for services, which parishioners who were leaving had to undergo a similar ordeal.  That was when he remembered that the church owned a 2.2 acre piece of property in Bukit Padang.

After consultation with Bishop John Lee, Fr Sham approached the state finance ministry officials to explore the possibility of government assistance to put up a new church on that property.  He was met with positive response.

Within three months of coming to serve at SHC, Fr Sham put into motion a plan to build a new church.   CMI also underwent two changes of names before the present name was finally agreed upon.  The previous names were “Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace” and “Church of Mary Immaculate Conception”- CMI SOCCOM

Remembering the beginnings of 25-year old Church and those who built her

Church of Mary Immaculate, with its unique hands-clasped bell tower, Bukit Padang

BUKIT PADANG – When a momentous occasion such as a Silver Jubilee approaches, the first thing that everyone would be looking forward to is a celebration to commemorate the occasion.

When it comes to a church such as Church of Mary Immaculate (CMI), not only is it momentous but it is also a historical event for many people over 25 years and beyond that.

Although the celebration would be looked forward to, but it is the past that we have to go back to so that we are reminded of how God had worked through these individuals, both religious and lay people, who were chosen to build a church, where the communities have grown bit by bit over the years, and now has become one family.

This is reflected in the theme of CMI’s 25 years dedication: “Celebrating Our Journey Together as a Family of Faith”.

The Uniqueness of CMI

CMI is a triangular-shaped building with a 60-ft hands-clasped-in-prayer bell tower equipped with an electric chime.

The concept of the unique bell tower came from retired Town and Regional Planning Department Director, Datuk Thasius Joeman, a member of the building committee in 1990.

This was disclosed in an interview with him by the Silver Jubilee Committee at the church canteen on 8 April 2018 in conjunction with CMI’s 25 years of dedication. Present also was Thomas Koh, a PWD senior officer who was the treasurer of the building committee.

Joeman said he proposed the concept to founder Father Thomas Sham who in turn brought him to see Bishop John Lee.  It is utterly unique as Joeman said, he has not seen that design during his years of travel around the globe.

Joeman said he was thankful that the bishop accepted the proposal just as he did the idea of having a church on the ground and not having a hall beneath the church.  Earlier, the original design by Paul Chong to have a hall beneath the church had been approved by the bishop.

The retired director said he related to the bishop his experience in Sibu when he attended a Mass in a church that has a hall beneath the church.  He could not concentrate on the Mass because of the noise coming from the basement hall.  He also highlighted the point that it might be difficult to climb the stairs to enter the church as one ages.

After 25 years, the praying hands bell tower with electric chime is still unique and has become a landmark in the suburban area of Bukit Padang.

The Dedication

For the Silver Jubilee celebration, an organizing committee was formed to plan and carry out the jubilee activities from May 2018 onwards. It began with the monthly movie nights featuring “Mary of Nazareth”, “Lourdes” and “Fatima” from May to July; Parish Pilgrimage to the Church of Divine Mercy KKIP in August;  Exhibition by Ministries/Groups in September; Triduum leading to the Thanksgiving Mass and dinner on Sunday Oct 28.  As a weekly preparation until October, a Jubilee prayer was recited during Saturday and Sunday Masses as well as petition for specific groups/ministries in the Prayer of the Faithful.  A souvenir magazine and some souvenir items have been on sale as well.

The Future of the Church is the Community

Now that the construction of the building of the Church of Mary, Immaculate is completed, it is important that we proceed with the community building.  A Church without a community is not a Church. A Church’s community is a Christian Community. A Christian Community is a believing and evangelizing community and, a community in dialogue with God and at the service of others.” (Message from Bishop John Lee on the occasion of the Blessing of the Church of Mary Immaculate on 31 October 1993).

The church community has been steadily growing and now is in need of better facilities. With this in mind, an approval was given by Archbishop John Wong to proceed with the extension of CMI.

This extension will see the construction of a multipurpose hall, classrooms, additional toilets, canteen and rectory. An unveiling of this extension was done alongside the launching of the Silver Jubilee Exhibition in September.

In his message, parish priest Fr Paul Lo said the building of the multipurpose hall will provide facilities for the church activities, especially catechetical ministries and youth programs.  He added that he believed that this building project would mark the beginning of the establishment of this church as a parish in the near future. – Sources: Silver Jubilee Committee (Sr Anna Yap) / CMI SOCCOM / CMI Building Committee

Without God, social media is ‘destructive’  

The archbishop Mgr Villegas tells online missionaries that if people use the new forms of communication irresponsibly, they “can divide and deceive” and cause the “slow death for our cherished values and virtues”.

Manila – Social media are a “blessing from God” but “without God” they can become “destructive”, this according to Mgr Socrates Buenaventura Villegas, archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan.

Mgr Villegas (pictured) makes the point in his message for the upcoming Catholic Social Media Summit (CSMS), which is organised by Youth Pinoy, a group of online missionaries, in co-operation with Areopagus Communications and the Media Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

The theme of the meeting, which will be held at the Siena College in Quezon City on 17 November, is #Activate, and is expected to draw online missionaries like young professionals, social media managers, diocesan communicators and religious, congregations and communities from across the country.

Mgr Villegas warns though that using the new forms of communication irresponsibly “can “divide and mislead” people, causing the “slow death our cherished values and virtues”.

The former CBCP president notes that social media without ethics “spoil human progress and render development meaningless”.

“We need social media with God, for the service of God and for the glory of God,” he said. “Then and only then can this latest of human inventions also become the best of human creations”.

In his view, “Social media is power because it can teach, it can ignite, it can inspire. It is a powerful human invention that continues to evolve and get better every minute”. – AsiaNews/CBCPNews

Food waste: Deadlier than Malaria

An FAO report highlights the extent of food waste, the repercussions it has on a global scale, and the benefits that would come from reducing it.

Farmers in India (AFP or licensors)

“The scale and pace of food production would not need to increase…to feed an extra 1 billion people by 2030.” This is according to a report released this week by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture organisation (FAO). The message FAO, along with other non-governmental organisations, is trying to get across on a global level is simple: 3 billion people worldwide are affected by poor-quality diets but there is neither a lack of food, nor a lack in food quality upon production.

If you don’t steal, don’t waste

In fact, the report states that the loss in the food quality and quantity occurs after its production. In low-income countries “food is mostly lost during harvesting, storage, processing and transportation”, whereas in high-income countries “the problem is one of waste at retail and consumer levels”. Basically, low-income countries face a lack of infrastructure, whereas in high-income countries carelessness and “waste at the end of the food chain” prevail. Pope Francis once stated that “wasting food is like stealing from the poor”.

Hunger: the deadliest disease

It is shocking to see that one in every five deaths globally are associated with poor diets. The report explains that poor diets are caused by consuming poor-quality foods as well as by a general lack of food, of any sort. More people die from not receiving the appropriate amount of food and nutrients that they are entitled to than from threatening illnesses like malaria and tuberculosis. This makes little sense when you consider that food production is totally within human control.

The fact that “one third of all food produced for human consumption never reaches the consumer’s plate”, sheds light on why FAO is urging us to “prioritise the reduction of food-loss and waste as a way of improving people’s access to nutritious and healthy food”.

Fixing one fixes three

The report analyses the benefits that would come from reducing loss and waste in nutritious foods. It would not only be the horrific hunger and malnutrition that would be tackled. When humanity for some reason cannot be put at the top of other people’s list of priorities, very often money can and “the value of food lost or wasted annually at the global level is estimated at $ 1 trillion” should be motivating enough to consider acting. Because said action would also yield substantial benefits for the natural environment.

The changes proposed in the report would “contribute to the efficiencies needed to address climate change”; “unlock savings in water and energy consumption, land use, and resources used in industrial food fortification”. Humanity, the environment and money. Three of what can be considered the most prominent aspects of life on earth, tackled by approaching one global issue.

The benefits of tackling this global issue should be more appealing than the negative outcomes that come from ignoring it: “addressing loss and waste of nutritious foods should be a specific new priority for improving nutrition” and the report highlights some of the ways in which this could be feasible through policy actions, Public-Private partnerships, non-profit interventions and the use of innovative technologies. – Francesca Merlo, Vatican news, 08 Nov 2018

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