Water More Than an Economic Good, Says Pope

Sends Message to International Expo Under Way in Spain

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 15, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is calling for solidarity and responsibility in national and international policies on water, saying water is a right and profit should not be the only reason to protect it.

There is a "right to water," based on the dignity of the human person, and it is not simply an "economic good" the Pope affirmed in a message to the international exposition on "Water and Sustainable Development," under way in Zaragoza, Spain.

The Holy Father sent his message through Cardinal Renato Martino, the Holy See's representative at the expo.

"Because of the […] pressure of multiple social and economic factors, we must be conscious of the fact" that today "water must be considered " a good that must be especially protected through clear national and international policies, and used according to sensible criteria of solidarity and responsibility," the Pontiff exhorted.

"The use of water, which is regarded as a universal and inalienable right, is related to the growing and urgent needs of people who live in destitution, taking into account the fact that limited access to potable water has repercussions on the wellbeing of an enormous number of people and is often the cause of illnesses, sufferings, conflicts, poverty and even death," the message added.

In regard to the right to water, the Holy Father also stressed that it is "a right that is based on the dignity of the human person." It is "from this perspective that positions of those who consider and treat water only as an economic good must be carefully examined," Benedict XVI continued. "Its use must be rational and solidary, fruit of a balanced synergy between the public and private sector."

Religious meanings

The Pope went on to mention that water is not just a material good, as it also has "religious meanings that believing humanity, especially Christianity, have developed, assigning it great value as a precious immaterial good, which always enriches man's life on this earth."

"How can one not recall in this circumstance the thought-provoking message that has come to us from sacred Scriptures, treating water as a symbol of purification -- cf. Psalm 50,4; John 13:8; and of life -- cf. John 3:5; Galatians 3:27," he noted. "The full recovery of this spiritual dimension is the guarantee and implication for an adequate approach to the ethical, political and economic problems that affect the complex management of water on the part of so many interested individuals, both in the national and international realm."

A concert was held in homage to the Pope on Monday night in the Mozart Hall of the expo auditorium, which was attended by some 1,000 people.

Proceeds from the sale of tickets will be allocated by "Manos Unidas," a Catholic charitable institution, to water management projects for agricultural purposes in India.