Poverty, inequality in Latin America at unthinkable levels, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Saul Martinez

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Latin America’s traditional social values of cooperation
and solidarity must prevail over the societal ills that threaten the livelihood
of the region’s inhabitants, Pope Francis said.

The current social and economic crisis facing Latin American countries
has allowed for the “growth of poverty, unemployment, social inequality” and a situation
in which the planet, “our common home, is exploited and
abused,” the pope said June 30.

“This is at a level that we never would have imagined 10 years ago. In the face of this
situation, an analysis is
needed that takes into account the reality of concrete people, the
reality of our people,” he told members of the Italian-Latin American
International Organization.

Founded in 1966, the international organization seeks to
increase “economic, social, scientific, technological and cultural
cooperation” between Latin American countries and Italy, according to the group’s website.

Its 21 member states are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia,
Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Italy,
Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Commemorating the organization’s 50th anniversary, the pope said
that to achieve the goal of promoting
development and cooperation, the
organization must first identify the potential of Latin American
countries, who are “rich in history, culture, natural resources” and “good and
caring” people.

“This has been proven in the face of recent natural disasters in how
they have helped each other, becoming an example for the entire international
community,” he said.
“All these social values are there, but they have to be appreciated in
order to be empowered.”

The Italian-Latin American International Organization, he
continued, also must
“coordinate efforts” to respond to the challenges facing Latin
American countries, and particularly
the challenge of migration.

has increased “in a way never before seen,” the pope said, and many
of those on the move in a
search for a better life “suffer the violation of their rights,” he
said. The risks are especially
high for children and young adults who are victims of trafficking or
“fall into the networks of criminality and organized crime.”

“A joint cooperation policy needs to be developed in
order to address this issue,” he said. “It isn’t about looking for
those who are guilty and avoid responsibility, but rather that we all are
called to work in a coordinated manner.”

Pope Francis said that by promoting a “culture of dialogue” in
politics, the Italian-Latin American International Organization can foster an
atmosphere that allows for the exchange of ideas and concerns for the good of
all people.

“It is a mutual exchange of trust which knows that on
the other side
there is a brother or
sister with a hand outstretched to help, who desires the good of both parties and wants to strengthen the bonds of
brotherhood and friendship to advance along the paths of justice and
peace,” he said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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