Civic activists retrieve rubbish from a stream in Suwon, South Korea  (ANSA)

By Francesca Merlo

March 22 2022

Pope Francis addresses an organisation of volunteers promoting access to clean drinking water, and urges nations to put aside conflict over resources and instead join forces to confront universal problems.

Addressing members of the organisation of volunteers “I was thirsty” on Monday, ten years since its foundation, Pope Francis thanked the members for their “clear and urgent goal: to bring drinking water to those who do not have it.”

Access to clean drinking water

Pope Francis began by noting that access to water, especially clean drinking water, is “a priority issue for the life of the planet and for peace among peoples.”

He said that, though it is an issue that concerns us all, in the world and especially in Africa, “there are populations that more than others suffer from the lack of access to this primary good.”

It is for this reason, continued the Pope, that “you have carried out your humanitarian projects in Africa, in many countries, in different regions of the continent”, adding that their work is “always done with local workers an in collaboration with the missionaries and the ecclesial communities of the area.”

Water is life

Making reference to the name of the group, “I was thirsty”, Pope Francis went on to quote Jesus, when He said: “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink”, adding “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:35, 40).

“Thirst does not hurt when there is plenty of water to drink. But we know that if it is lacking, and lacking for a long time, thirst can become unbearable. Life on Earth depends on water; we humans do too. We all need sister water to live!”

Why war?

With this in mind, the Pope went on to wonder why conflict sometime surrounds access to water, rather than cooperation.

“Why we should wage war on each other over conflicts that we should resolve by talking to each other? Why not, instead, join forces and resources to fight the real battles of civilisation together: the fight against hunger and thirst; the fight against disease and epidemics; the fight against poverty and modern-day slavery. Why?”, reiterated the Pope.

The Pope highlighted the importance of creating the consciousness that spending on weapons, agan and again “dirties the soul, dirties the heart, dirties humanity”. 

He noted that certain choices are not neutral ones, such as the allocation of a large part of spending to arms, which ultimately means “taking it away from something else, which means continuing to take it away from those who lack the necessities.”

“What is the point of all of us solemnly committing ourselves together at international level to campaigns against poverty, against hunger, against the degradation of the planet, if we then fall back into the old vice of war, into the old strategy of the power of armaments, which takes everything and everyone backwards?”

Small but fruitful

Bringing his speech to a close, Pope Francis stressed to the members that their organisation is certainly small in relation to these great problems, “but that it is working on a critical point, and it is doing it well, in the right way; as are, thank God, so many other voluntary organisations in Italy and the world”.

For this, concluded the Pope, “I say thank you and I encourage you to continue your commitment.” -Vatican News