Bishops Urge G8 Leaders to Protect the Poor and Assist Developing Countries

Thursday, June 25 2009

(CCCB-Ottawa)… In a letter addressed to the national leaders participating in the G8 Summit July 8 to 10 in Italy, the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of the G8 countries have urged Summit leaders to “take concerted actions to protect poor persons and assist developing countries.”

The Bishops noted that although poor persons and nations have contributed the least to creating the economic crisis and to global climate change, the poor will suffer the most from the tragic consequences involved.

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

At a time of global financial and economic crisis, we write on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in the G8 nations to urge you to take concerted actions to protect poor persons and assist developing countries at the upcoming G8 Summit in Italy.

As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown prior to the G20 meeting which the Prime Minister hosted: “The current crisis has raised the spectre of the cancellation or drastic reduction of external assistance programs, especially for Africa and for less developed countries elsewhere. Development aid, including the commercial and financial conditions favourable to less developed countries and the cancellation of the external debt of the poorest and most indebted countries, has not been the cause of the crisis and, out of fundamental justice, must not be its victim.”

Our moral tradition commits the Church to protecting human life and dignity, especially of the poorest, most vulnerable members of the human family. In the faces of poor persons the Catholic Church sees the face of Christ whom we serve in countries throughout the world.

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. In light of this fact, the G8 nations should meet their responsibility to promote dialogue with other powerful economies to help prevent further economic crises. In addition, they should meet their commitments to increase Official Development Assistance in order to reduce global poverty and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially in African countries. This requires deepening partnerships with developing countries so that their peoples can be active agents in their own development, participating in political, governmental, economic and social reforms that serve the common good of all. In a particular way it is important to strengthen peacekeeping so that armed conflicts do not continue to rob countries of the resources needed for development.

In a similar way, poor countries and peoples who have contributed the least to the human factors driving global climate change are most at risk of its harmful consequences. As Catholic pastors and teachers, we have a special concern for how climate change impacts the poor. Concrete commitments should be agreed upon and mechanisms should be created to mitigate additional global climate change and to help poor persons and developing nations adapt to its effects as well as to adopt appropriate technologies for sustainable development. Protecting the poor and the planet are not competing causes; they are moral priorities for all people living in this world.

The G8 Summit takes place in the shadow of a global economic crisis, but its actions can help bring a light of hope to our world. By asking first how a given policy will affect the poor and the vulnerable, you can help assure that the common good of all is served. As a human family we are only as healthy as our weakest members.

We pray that your meeting will be blessed by a spirit of collaboration that enables you to take steps to reduce poverty and address climate change in a time of crisis.

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for the attention that you will give to this request.






Most Reverend V. James Weisgerber
Archbishop of Winnipeg
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Copies of this letter have also been sent to:

Hon. Taro Aso, Prime Minister, Japan, by Most Reverend Peter Takeo Okada, Archbishop of Tōkyō, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan

Hon. Nicolas Sarkozy, President, French Republic, by His Eminence André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, President, Bishops’ Conference of France (Conférence des évêques de France)

Hon. Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, President, Russian Federation, by Most Reverend Joseph Werth, S.I., Bishop of the Diocese of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Novosibirsk, President, Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation

Hon. Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Federal Republic of Germany, by Most Reverend Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg, President of the German Bishops’ Conference (Deutsche Bischofskonferenz)

Hon. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, United Kingdom, by His Eminence Keith Michael Patrick Cardinal O’Brien, Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, and by Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Hon. Silvio Berlusconi, President of the Council of Ministers, Italy, by His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, President, Bishops’ Conference of Italy

Hon. Barack Obama, President, United States of America, by His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops