To find real solutions to today's problems, people need to address the root evils plaguing the world: unjust economies, financial speculation and systems that create inequity, Pope Francis said.
The problem of world hunger at a time when there is more than enough food to feed the world, for example, shows how the real problem of malnutrition has not been properly addressed despite all the international organizations and campaigns actively working to alleviate hunger, he told experts in agricultural and forestry Feb. 7.
The pope's message was broadcast during an "Expo of Ideas" in Milan in the run-up to the International Exposition on "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life" taking place in Milan from May 1 to Oct. 31.
The Vatican, together with Caritas Internationalis, is one of more than 140 countries planning to have a pavilion at the expo. Each country will show what it thinks is needed to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food to feed the world, while respecting the planet and promoting sustainability.
In his video message, Pope Francis said so much hunger in a world of plenty represents a "paradox of abundance."
"There is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes. This is the paradox," he said, quoting his speech at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome Nov. 20.
In order to find real solutions and not be caught up in "sophisms" or deceptive arguments that never adequately deal with the actual situation, the pope suggested three approaches.
The first, he said, is to stop relying on emergency responses to crises and start focusing on long-term policies that "solve the structural causes of poverty. Let us remember that the root of all evils is inequity," he said.
The current economic system "kills" because the stronger have the advantage over the weakest, he said.
To address the underlying economic inequalities it is necessary to "reject the absolute autonomy of the markets and financial speculation, and act above all on the structural causes of inequality."
The second approach is to make sure government policies are aimed at promoting the common good, he said. "A healthy economic policy" and an "authentic politician" focus on "the dignity of the human person and the common good."
"Please, be courageous and do not be afraid to question political and economic projects from a broader meaning of life because this will help you truly serve the common good and will give you strength to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all," he told them.
The last approach is to be custodians of the earth, safeguarding it for future generations, he said.
"The earth is generous and lets nothing be lacking to those who take care of it. The earth is everyone's mother, she asks for respect and not violence or still worse arrogance from masters," he said. "Safeguard the earth not just with goodness, but also with tenderness," he said.
Pope Francis returned to the theme Feb. 9 during the early morning Mass in the chapel of his residence.
Protecting creation, he said, is not the responsibility only of environmentalists and the Green parties of various countries, "it's Christian!"
"It is our responsibility," he said. "A Christian who does not protect creation, who does not make it grow, is a Christian who does not care for the work of God, a work born of God's love for us."