Vatican City — style="background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;">Farmers must find a delicate balance between reaping the precious gifts of the earth and protecting them for future generations, especially given the threat of climate change, Pope Francis said.
At the same time, the ongoing problem of poverty and hunger affecting such "a vast part" of the world demands that today's "system of food production and distribution be rethought," he told delegates to a national conference of Italians who own or work on farms, ranches and commercial fisheries.
Pope Francis met Jan 31 with members of Coldiretti, an Italian trade group that promotes agricultural education and lobbies to protect agricultural land and promote farm-friendly policies.
Cultivating and caring for the earth go hand in hand, he said, but "every farmer knows well how much it has become more difficult to cultivate the earth at a time that accelerated climate change and extreme weather events are ever more widespread," he said.
He said the question was "how to continue to produce good food for everyone's life when the stability of the climate is at risk" and when the air, water and the soil become polluted.
Nations need to realize how urgent it is to collaborate and take "prompt action" to take care of creation, he said.
The Second Vatican Council reminded people about the "universal destination of earthly goods, but in reality, the dominant economic system excludes many from their just fruition," he said.
The precedence given to "the rules of the market," the culture of waste and other factors contribute to the suffering and misery of many families, he said.
The major challenge today is to promote "low impact agriculture" so that "our cultivating the earth is also caring for it at the same time," which is the only way future generations will be able to continue to live, he said.
Farming is a "real and true vocation" that should receive the kind of recognition and respect it deserves, he said, including "concrete political and economic choices." Too many obstacles that penalize farmers often make farming seem not so appealing to younger generations, he added.
The pope asked that people rediscover "love for the earth like a 'mother,' as St. Francis (of Assisi) would say."
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