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Gordon Brown & Pope Benedict XVI Exchange Letters

Prime Minister and Pope Benedict XVI letters

The Prime Minister and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI have exchanged letters on the efforts of the international community to make greater progress on the Millennium Development Goals.

Prime Minister's letter to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Your Holiness,

I read with great interest your speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on 18 April. You spoke powerfully of the challenges facing our world and the responsibility on all of us in positions of leadership to act together to promote solidarity in the most fragile regions of the world. You also spoke of the development goals. As things stand today, we are not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We are falling short on the commitments we made back in 2000.

The United Kingdom and the Holy See can point to a strong relationship on the issue of international development over the years. In 2004, Pope John Paul II was the first world leader to support the International Finance Facility. In November 2006, Your Holiness, you bought the first International Immunisation Bond and Cardinals Martino, Murphy-O'Connor and O'Brien represented you at the launch in London. The Bond issue raised over $4 Billion and will immunise 500 million children between 2006 and 2015 - leading to 5 million children being saved. Again on 9 February 2007, you greeted me and my colleagues from Italy, Canada, the President of the World Bank and the Queen of Jordan, at the launch of the Advanced Market Commitment which aims to fund research into finding vaccines for diseases which primarily affect the developing world.

On 6 June 2007, Your Holiness, you called on the developed world to work to attain the MDGs. You called for serious efforts to be made to reach these objectives. You highlighted the unique contribution that faith groups play in the field of international development and often in the poorest of countries. Faith communities are essential to achieving the MDGs for in many parts of the world it is faith communities which provide many of the essential services, especially in the fields of health and education. Without their contribution, and in particular the agencies of the Catholic Church, we will not be able to achieve the MDGs.

On 31 July 2007, at the United Nations in New York, the UN Secretary General and I called for a renewed focus on the Millennium Development Goals so that we could deliver on the pledges we made in 2000. The Holy See again was among the first to welcome this call when the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, under the leadership of Cardinal Martino and in consultation with Archbishop Mamberti, issued a press release welcoming the renewed focus on the MDGs.

We are taking this challenge forward under the leadership of the UN Secretary General and the President of the General Assembly. Later this year on 25 September, at the UN in New York, they will convene a High Level Meeting focused on the MDGs will be convened. It will involve UN Member States, faith groups, the private sector, NGOs and other actors from within civil society. The summit will review progress and decide on concrete measures so that we are able to deliver on the goals by 2015.

Your Holiness, I know that you are deeply committed to achieving the MDGs. We are looking to the EU, G8, regional meetings across the world, in particular the 25 September UN Summit, to galvanise the international community to accelerate progress on the MDGs. I believe that without concerted action this year, the MDGs will slide down the political agenda and the opportunity to deliver on our promises to the developing world will be lost for another generation. We are determined to prevent this and are building a global coalition to ensure that we live up to the pledges we made back in 2000. Your Holiness, I sincerely hope that again you will lend your voice to these efforts in the weeks and months ahead.

Your Holiness, I hope that in the coming months I will be able to call on you at the Vatican and to continue our close co-operation on international development.

Gordon Brown

***

Letter from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has received your kind letter of 23 May 2008, and has asked me to respond in his name, thanking you for your courtesy and assuring you that he has taken due note of your comments. In your letter you recall certain practical initiatives in the realm of international cooperation undertaken recently by the British Government and the Holy See for the benefit of poor countries. At the same time you propose the creation of a broad international coalition with a view to honouring the commitments made in 2000 and, consequently, attaining the MDGs by the year 2015.

In this regard, I wish to refer to His Holiness' Message of 3 June 2008 to the FAO summit on food security, in which he asked for a courageous effort to "globalise the expectations of solidarity". In this way it is hoped that due attention will be given to respect for human dignity in all negotiations, all decisions and in the manner of their implementation, so that the fruits of creation will be available to all people, and to all future generations. Only a deeply-felt and responsible sense of generosity will ensure that the MDGs are reached within the projected time scale.

The Holy Father prays that the important international meetings planned for the second half of the present year will be able to provide an effective response to the economic crises afflicting several regions of the planet, and put into effect a concerted international plan of action aimed at freeing the world from extreme poverty, from the scourge of hunger and from the chronic lack of general medical care.

With sentiments of esteem, I avail myself of the opportunity to extend my own good wishes to you personally and in your duties as Prime Minister.

Tarcisio Card. Bertone
Secretary of State

***

ENDS

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