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 CNS Story:

POPE-G8 Jul-7-2008 (490 words) With photos. xxxi

Pope urges Group of Eight to put needs of poor at forefront of summit

By Catholic News Service

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI urged world leaders from the Group of Eight to put the needs of the poor and weak at the forefront of their discussions.

"Speculation and financial turbulence and their perverse effects on food and energy prices" have increased the vulnerability of the world's poor and disadvantaged, he said after praying the Angelus July 6 with pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence south of Rome.

The pope's appeal came the day before leaders of the world's most industrialized nations began their annual meeting, held this year July 7-9 in Toyako, Japan.

The G-8 includes Russia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Talks this year were to focus on the rising costs of food and fuel, the world economy, development in Africa and global warming, as well as establishing a framework for fair greenhouse gas emissions targets.

The pope said he was adding his voice to the "urgent appeal" set forth by the presidents of bishops' conferences associated with the G-8.

In June, the bishops -- including the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George -- called upon the presidents of the convening countries to honor their commitments to reduce global poverty and address climate change.

The pope said he, too, would like to see G-8 leaders focus their deliberations on following through on the commitments they made at earlier G-8 meetings.

The pope asked that the world leaders "courageously adopt all measures necessary to beat the scourge of extreme poverty, hunger, disease (and) illiteracy that still affects a large part of humanity."

The pope appealed to summit participants to "put the needs of the weakest and poorest at the center of their deliberations."

Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based umbrella organization for 162 Catholic charities, said a representative from Caritas is attending the summit.

"The G-8 leaders must use their summit in Japan to salvage their reputation on aid and help millions out of poverty," Caritas said in a July 4 press release.

It said anti-poverty promises made with the Millennium Development Goals are "way off target" and aid to poorer countries has fallen, which "will put a potential 5 million lives at risk." The goals have the aim of halving the rates of world poverty -- defined by the number of people existing on less than $1 a day -- by 2015.

Caritas said funding spent on climate change should be in addition to funding development.

One billion people lack access to basic needs such as clean water, a daily meal, health care and education, and many live on less than $1 a day, it said.

"Ending this scandal of poverty in a world of such wealth must be the top priority for world leaders" at the G-8, said Caritas.

END


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