VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI publicly called on the leaders of the world’s richest nations to keep their promises to increase development aid.
Speaking at the end of his general audience June 6, the day the Group of Eight summit opened in Heiligendamm, Germany, Pope Benedict called specifically for funding for education in the world’s developing nations and for recognition and support of Catholic schools, which play a leading role in many of the world’s poorest countries.
Pope Benedict told the estimated 30,000 people at his audience that he had written to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, encouraging her “to keep the theme of world poverty on the agenda of the G-8, with specific reference to Africa.”
He said Merkel assured him that the eight nations were committed to reaching the Millennium Development Goals for fighting poverty, disease and illiteracy by increasing foreign aid, promoting development and fighting corruption. The millennium goals are a plan that aims to cut global poverty in half by 2015.
“I should like to make a further appeal to the leaders meeting at Heiligendamm not to retreat from their promises to make a substantial increase in development aid,” the pope said. “Let us hope they work seriously to reach these objectives.”
In particular, the pope said, “special attention” should be given to the second millennium goal, which is “to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling.”
Reaching the goal of universal primary education is an essential component in reaching and maintaining all the others goals and “is the starting point for autonomous and sustainable processes of development,” he said.
“It must not be forgotten that the Catholic Church has always been at the forefront in the field of education, reaching places, particularly in the poorest countries, that state structures often fail to reach,” the pope said.
He said the international community must recognize, value and support the work in education done locally by the Catholic and other religious groups and by nongovernmental organizations, including by providing adequate funding.