Pope: Water ‘unalienable right,’ all must have access

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Public and private sectors must work together to ensure all people, especially the poor, have access to clean, potable water, Pope Benedict XVI said in a message to an international exposition dedicated to water and sustainable development.

Water is "a universal and unalienable right" for all people, and its use must take into account the "growing and perennial needs of people who live in poverty," he said.

Representing the Vatican, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, delivered the pope’s message to the International Exposition on Water and Sustainable Development in Zaragoza, Spain, June 14-Sept. 14.

The Vatican is one of more than 100 countries represented at the expo with its own pavilion.

The Vatican released a copy of the pope’s written message July 15.

The pope said water is "an essential and indispensable" gift from God for people to care for and use, but its protection demands clear international and national policies and its use must be guided by criteria that uphold solidarity and responsibility to the whole human family.

"Inadequate access to safe drinking water affects the well-being of a huge number of people and is often the cause of disease, suffering, conflicts, poverty and even death," he said quoting the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Water should not be treated as merely an economic commodity, he said; its use must be guided by "reason and solidarity, fruit of a balanced synergy between the public and private sectors."

Copyright © 2008 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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