Cardinal prays for fairer world as Rio Summit meets
by Viviene Hewitt in Rome and Cristina ()done CARDINAL Basil Hume called for an end to "over-consumption of the rich world" and for the relief of Third World debt in his statement on the Earth Summit in Rio this week.
In his message to Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Fiume called for "a transfer of resources and aid from developed countries" and a "fair regime of international trade".
The Rio conference, where over 150 heads of state are meeting to discuss policy changes and steps to be taken to protect the environment, is "an occasion of great moral and religious, as well as political. significance" said the Cardinal.
The Vatican's ten-man delegation at the summit is set to reject strategies restricting the freedom of couples to decide the size of their own families.
In a four-page note to the Governments of all 98 countries participating in the Brazil summit, the Holy See said it was concerned that demographic decline would be seen as "the primary factor in resolving ecological problems".
The note amounts to an appeal to delegates to recognise the world's ecological crisis as a moral issue and warns that birthcontrol programmes sponsored by the rich northern hemispherP__ could mask the principal question at stake "the equitable distribution and development of Earth's abundant resources".
It cautions that international aid should not be dependent on whether a country implements contraception, sterilisation or abortion programmes and points out that the Holy See will denounce the deployment of "surgical or pharmaceutical abortive methods" within programmes to reduce the population.
Ten days ago, Vatican press officer Joaquin Navarro Valls denied that the Holy See was seeking to block potential efforts at Rio to enforce birth control programmes in Third World countries.
He was responding to criticism from Britain and the United States that the Holy See delegation at the Summit could prove an obstacle to decision-making.
Navarro-Valls agreed that the Church is particularly worried about population control programs that end up imposing limits on family size and ignoring cultural and religious traditions. Such programs amount to "neoclonialism,"he said.
Some birth control programs seem to assume that "the poor. by the very fact that they exist and are numerous, are the cause instead of the victims of lagging development or ecological degradation" said Navarro-Valls.
Mgr Diarmuid Martin, who is part of the Vatican delegation, said the Pope felt that "attributing the responsibility of poverty exclusively to population growth is a little bit naive."
A diplomat reported that prior to the summit the Vatican had circulated a document to embassies in Rome challenging industrialised nations on issues such as technology transfer.
• Prime Minister John Major warned this week against high expectations from the Earth Summit as Britain looks set to follow the US in refusing to sign the bio-diversity treaty which many see as key to the Summit's success. Environment minister David Malean said in Rio that Britain wanted to make a positive politial contribution by signing the bio-diversity treaty but that the matter would have to be studied with care.