Opening Remarks of His Excellency, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher
Opening Remarks of His Excellency, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher,
Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See,
At the Conference
“Dreaming of a Better Restart”
Casina, Pio IV
14 May 2021
Excellencies, Ministers and Secretaries, Academicians, distinguished guests,
I wish to thank the Chancellor, Archbishop Sánchez Sorondo, and the Presidents of the Pontifical Academies of Science and of Social Sciences, Joachim von Braun and Stefano Zamagni, for extending the kind invitation to offer some brief remarks at the beginning of this conference.
The title of today’s Conference, “Dreaming of a Better Restart”, is a welcome, indeed refreshing, reflection as we seek to move beyond, or so we hope, the most difficult and trying phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is important to be forward-looking, to consider how we should move ahead, for at least three reasons. In the first place, there is a clear sense of “pandemic fatigue”. Although as mortal beings, we constantly face the reality of our limitations and eventual death, we are not accustomed to living under “lockdowns” and being restricted from the most basic, even essential, human interaction. Unfortunately, for some, it seems to have reached a point where they have made the pandemic their very lifestyle, their raison d’etre, and would even be content to remain there. Secondly, in the face of the terrible consequences on the social, economic and personal aspects of our lives, including the loss of loved ones, it is important to move on because life goes on, the world continues to revolve. After all, from the Christian perspective, we truly believe and hope in eternal life. In the third place, finally, we must be part of building this next chapter in human history and we must not spare any effort in order to shape it and make it better. We have the means and the ingenuity to do it responsibly and wisely. This is maybe the most difficult challenge.
The virus has put each nation, community and family to the test at every level imaginable. There has been no shortage of divisiveness and division, politicization and politics, name-calling and finger-pointing. Ideological colonization has grown during the pandemic. Sadly, and perhaps even ironically, we have witnessed a widening of the gap between haves and have-nots during this global crisis. Some institutions, companies (especially “big-tech” and “big-pharma”), even certain nations, have exploited the crisis, using it as an opportunity for predominantly self-serving, or self-preserving motives, including excess profits, with little consideration, much less solidarity, with others in need. In his Encyclical Fratelli tutti, released last October, during the heart of the pandemic, Pope Francis, addressed numerous, significant obstacles which challenge the global community, including the temptation to stop dreaming, or working, for a better future. He states rather pointedly: “In today’s world, the sense of belonging to a single human family is fading, and the dream of working together for justice and peace seems an outdated utopia. What reigns instead is a cool, comfortable and globalized indifference, born of deep disillusionment concealed behind a deceptive illusion: thinking that we are all-powerful, while failing to realize that we are all in the same boat. This illusion, unmindful of the great fraternal values, leads to ‘a sort of cynicism. For that is the temptation we face if we go down the road of disenchantment and disappointment… Isolation and withdrawal into one’s own interests are never the way to restore hope and bring about renewal. Rather, it is closeness; it is the culture of encounter. Isolation, no; closeness, yes. Culture clash, no; culture of encounter, yes’” (FT, 30).
Today’s discussion on “Dreaming of a Better Restart” will focus on two issues that are as extensive and practical as they are thought-provoking: financial and tax solidarity from one side, and integral ecological sustainability from the other. Because of the complexity of these topics, their interdisciplinary nature and their impact upon all of humanity, they should not be over simplified or quickly and tidily categorized within any one limited framework or approach. At the same time, our “Dreaming of a Better Restart” should not so much contemplate the dreaming up of new principles, but rather consider the practical solutions found in those well-established and time-tested principles of social justice, also found in the rich teaching of Catholic Social Doctrine,
In light of this social teaching of the Church, Pope Francis offers us an insight on both of these issues, which could be helpful for us to bear in mind during today’s discussion. While considering the social and economic injustices that abound in many parts of the world, in Fratelli tutti, the Pope implores: “Indeed, justice requires recognizing and respecting not only the rights of individuals, but also social rights and the rights of peoples. This means finding a way to ensure ‘the fundamental right of peoples to subsistence and progress’, a right which is at times severely restricted by the pressure created by foreign debt. In many instances, debt repayment not only fails to promote development but gravely limits and conditions it. While respecting the principle that all legitimately acquired debt must be repaid, the way in which many poor countries fulfil this obligation should not end up compromising their very existence and growth” (FT, 126). The manifold challenges of our current situation do provide “a real opportunity to seek new and innovative consensus-based solutions that are not divisive, politicized or partial, but that truly seek the common good and the integral human development of all.”
In his letter to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, on the occasion of their Spring Meeting, the Holy Father called for a new approach to resolve economic inequalities, by challenging these institutions, indeed the international community, to act decisively in favor of debt relief. “There remains an urgent need for a global plan that can create new or regenerate existing institutions, particularly those of global governance, and help to build a new network of international relations for advancing the integral human development of all peoples. This necessarily means giving poorer and less developed nations an effective share in decision-making and facilitating access to the international market. A spirit of global solidarity also demands at the least a significant reduction in the debt burden of the poorest nations, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Relieving the burden of debt of so many countries and communities today, is a profoundly human gesture that can help people to develop, to have access to vaccines, health, education and jobs”.
In this endeavor, we should base these new solutions upon an integral ecology framework that promotes a culture of care for our and future generations. In this perspective, I would like to focus briefly on just two challenging issues on which the international community is working intensively: climate change and food systems.
On many levels, but especially at the multilateral level, we can witness growing interest and attention to finding sustainable and just solutions to both the problem and consequences of climate change. Aside from adopting various measures that cannot be postponed any further, a strategy is necessary to reduce as soon as possible climate neutrality, net-zero emission, whereas it must be extended to all aspects of human coexistence. At the High Level Virtual Climate Ambition Summit 2020, held on 12 December last, Pope Francis announced the adoption by the Holy See of this strategy, stressing that it will move on two levels: on the one hand, the Vatican City State is committed to climate neutrality by 2050; on the other hand, the Holy See will promote education in integral ecology, since “political and technical measures must be united with an educational process that favours a cultural model of development and sustainability based on fraternity and the alliance between the human being and the environment”. It is very important that the COP26 move forward on these two axis: the technical and economic one, as well as the educational on the other.
With regard to the issue of food systems, we all know how goods such as health, environment, climate, and security affect or are affected by food-systems. The next UN Summit on them represents a unique opportunity to build a more just and resilient world in which no one is left behind and to leave a better world for future generations. It is important that it will focus on the need “to transform agricultural food systems so that they may become catalysts of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, increasing resilience in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, strengthening local value chains, improving nutrition, educating producers on the re-use and recycling of resources so that food waste may be reduced, supplying healthy diets accessible to all, and being environmentally sustainable and respectful of local cultures”. It has significant momentum to intensify international action towards combating food insecurity and malnutrition, in a strongly global context exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic and climate change.
In closing, while wishing every success to the deliberations today, as we dream and identify the means for a better restart, it seems appropriate to recall that our considerations and proposals be born and sustained from a true spirit of human fraternity, seeking the common good, through authentic solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters, especially those in the most vulnerable of situations. Those living on the margins of society, are also those most forcefully and immediately impacted by the injustices that we, in our own small and humble way, are attempting to alleviate today. As Pope Francis so poignantly stressed: “Unless we recover the shared passion to create a community of belonging and solidarity worthy of our time, our energy and our resources, the global illusion that misled us will collapse and leave many in the grip of anguish and emptiness. Nor should we naively refuse to recognize that ‘obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction’. The notion of ‘every man for himself’ will rapidly degenerate into a free-for-all that would prove worse than any pandemic” (FT, 36).
Thank you for your kind attention.
 Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Intervention of the Holy See at High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and beyond, 28 May 2020.
 Pope Francis, Letter of the Holy Father Francis for the Spring 2021 Meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, 8 April 2021.
 Pope Francis, Video-Message to the High Level Virtual Climate Ambition Summit 2020, 12 December 2020.
 Statement of His Excellency, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, at the Workshop on Science and Innovations for a Sustainable Food System Preparing for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, organized by the Scientific Group for the UN Food Systems Summit in cooperation with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 21 April 2021.