Pope, British Prime Minister Discuss Global Economy

Hard work, solidarity and other ethical values must be part of the world’s response to the global economic crisis, said Pope Benedict XVI and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The pope and prime minister met Feb. 19 at the Vatican, and their 35-minute conversation focused on the economic crisis and “the duty to pursue initiatives benefiting the less developed countries,” a Vatican statement said.

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“Large numbers of people have been thrust into poverty as a result of the banking crisis and I think that we, together with the faith groups, must have uppermost in our minds...what we can do immediately to help those in difficulty,” Mr. Brown said following the meeting. “The reality of what has happened has got to lead to us taking action to create safety nets for people in countries where they are most vulnerable to the downturn. Perhaps one of the things the world will be able to take out of this difficult crisis,” he said, is a realization that safety nets must be in place to help individuals at risk.

Mr. Brown also said that he and the pope spoke about “the importance of what we might call ‘the simple virtues’ being at the center not just of family life in our societies and communities, but also at the center of our economic life. The only successful economic life in the future will be one that values hard work and effort and responsibility and enterprise, but chooses not to reward irresponsible risk-taking and excess.”

The prime minister was in Rome to assist with preparations for the Group of 20 summit, which he will host in London in April. The summit will bring together leaders of the world’s richest nations as well as the key leaders of emerging economies. In an article published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, on the eve of his Roman visit, Mr. Brown wrote that the Group of 20 meeting must find ways to ensure that the poorest countries receive a portion of the cash infusions that wealthier countries are committing to stimulate their economies.

Brown also outlined his priorities for fighting the economic downturn and reversing global poverty, which include new resources dedicated to health and education in the developing world; reform of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to give a greater voice to developing nations; and the use of new world trade agreements to open markets to products from developing economies. The world has a “collective responsibility to ensure that the needs of the poorest countries will not be an afterthought, tagged on due to moral obligation or guilt,” Mr. Brown wrote.

The pope and the prime minister also agreed that efforts must be made “to foster cooperation on projects of human promotion, respect for the environment and sustainable development,” according to the Vatican statement. Mr. Brown told reporters after the meeting that he had invited Pope Benedict to visit the United Kingdom. While the pope appeared pleased with the invitation, he made no firm commitment, Brown said

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