Cardinal tells Wogan of his prayer for G8 Summit
posted on 01 July 2005
“When they make decisions, the leaders should have the poor at their table”
The Archbishop of Westminster has spoken to Terry Wogan on the eve of the Make Poverty History Rally in Edinburgh tomorrow of his hopes for next week’s meeting of G8 leaders at Gleneagles next week.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor will be leading the Rally with the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O’Brien.
Transcript follows of ‘Pause for Thought’, 1 July 2005, BBC Radio 2 at 0910.
Terry Wogan: His Eminence, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor. Thank you for coming in. Now the last time was fairly unsatisfactory because you were in a van somewhere and you were on your way to Rome to prepare to select, or to help to select, the new Pope. And this time you’re on your way to Scotland.
+CMOC: Gosh yes, that was just three months ago. Going to elect the Pope. It was quite an extraordinary couple of weeks. But now, as you say, I’m going to Scotland for the rally tomorrow. Indeed, Pope Benedict has a word to say about why we’re going.
I think it’s very important to be in Edinburgh tomorrow, at the front of a rally with my Scottish brother cardinal, Keith O’Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh. We’re there because, as the Archbishop of Canterbury said earlier this week, extreme poverty in the world, especially in Africa, is something about which we should be more angry than we actually are. And I agree with that. Poverty dulls our senses, and produces a sense of fatalism. We tend to think we are powerless to do anything, and that in some way God sanctions this. But then people wake up, just as they did over slavery in the nineteenth century or when it was decided, quite suddenly, that tuberculosis in British cities was something that didn’t have to happen. We get angry, because we know that extreme poverty violates the image of God in our fellow human beings. And that indignation leads to rallies and petitions and a call for action. We might not all agree on all the details, but we know things have got to change.
At bottom, extreme poverty is in part a consequence of our world leaders lacking the moral will to act in certain key areas – 30,000 avoidable deaths a day, the millions of orphans, the tragedy of people dying because they cannot afford to live. This is something that the Churches have always felt very strongly about, because our Christian faith tells us that human beings were created with real dignity, a dignity which we are born with by virtue of being created by a loving God who was willing to die for us on the Cross. I know from my brother bishops in Africa how hard it is to help to relieve poverty locally, when there are big decisions, political decisions, that need to be taken to raise that dignity. I also know from them how important it is that African countries have better government, better institutions – and we can help them to do just that – indeed, just like, after the Second World War, the Americans helped us.
You know, I remember, some years ago, being in a Third World country and I was at the airport with a fellow priest and we were going to get on the plane when two little boys came up to us and they were only about 10 and they were thin as rakes and they said could they clean our shoes. And I didn’t really want that. And I was going to give them some money when the priest who was with me said to them “When did you last eat?”. And the two boys said well they’d had a little something at breakfast, which was about 12 hours before. And so we said well would you like a toasted sandwich and they said yes. And so I said come and sit with us. And they sat our table, they wolfed down a toasted sandwich. And then I said would you like another and they said yes. And so they had another one. And afterwards we had a few words with them. And they stepped down and said thank you. Now I was very moved by that. Because although it was easy to give money, in a sense to make them share our table, to ask them to share our table, and to listen to them a little, seemed to me to indicate something a little bit more profound. And I would like to think that when those who make decisions, the political leaders, the governments, sit at the table of decisions, at least metaphorically the poor people are present.
So that’s why I want to play my part tomorrow. Because that’s what the Gospel demands of me. I want in the future to know that, when I had a chance to do so, I could help in some small way to make this world more of what God intends it to be - brothers and sisters with a common father. And I’m praying that, when they meet next week at Gleneagles, the Holy Spirit moves the G8 leaders to feel the same, so that when they think about the poorest of the world they, too, see the spark of the divine in them, and take the right decisions that flow from that. That’s my prayer. And that’s why I’m marching.