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Pope invited to Milan Expo 2015

World's fair will promote global cooperation, says Francis

17 January, 16:03
Pope invited to Milan Expo 2015 (By Sandra Cordon) (ANSA) - Vatican City, January 17 - Pope Francis was formally invited to attend Milan Expo 2015 on Friday by a delegation including senior officials from the world's fair.

The Expo theme, "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", dovetails with the pope's concern about world hunger and reducing waste.

As well, Pope Francis has been "positively struck" by the opportunities for international cooperation and youth employment through Expo, a Vatican spokesman said Friday. "The Pope told us 'forward, forward'," said Archbishop of Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola, who met with Francis as part of a delegation that included Expo 2015 Commissioner Giuseppe Sala, and Diana Bracco, President of Expo 2015 SpA. The delegation also included other Church officials from Milan as well as those working on the Holy See's pavilion at the world's fair that runs from May 1 through October 31 of 2015.

The issues that Expo aims to highlight, through the 141 countries and entities that have already signed on to participate, include examining food production and sustainability in the 21st century in the context of distribution of food. Countries from around the world have been creating exhibits for their pavilions to demonstrate how science and technology can be applied to increase the world's food supplies and improve distribution.

These, as well as personal responsibility of individuals, are themes close to the pope's heart as Francis has delivered numerous messages about the importance of eradicating world hunger, reducing waste, improving nutrition and food distribution.

Last month, in a video message for the Caritas Internationalis campaign against world hunger, Francis said that the world produces enough food for everyone, and so there is no justification for allowing hunger to continue.

The world cannot turn away from the scandal of almost one billion people suffering from hunger, said the pope.

Because the world produces enough food for all, there is no excuse for allowing hunger to continue, the pope added in his video message for the Caritas Internationalis campaign against world hunger.

"We cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist," the pope said in December.

"I invite you to make space in your heart for this urgent need, respecting this God-given rights of all to have access to adequate food".

And on World Food Day in October, the pope condemned the continuing problem of hunger and malnutrition around the globe, including the shocking amount of waste and indifference.

In a message to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Francis said that about one-third of the world's food production is wasted, adding "we need to modify our lifestyles including our eating habits".

"This waste of food is one of the results of our throwaway culture that often leads to the sacrifice of men and women before the idols of profit and consumerism".

He decried the "sad sign of a globalization of indifference that is slowly making us get used to the suffering of others as though it were a normal thing".

Expo could be "an extraordinary opportunity," so long as organizers and participants do not focus solely on the "material aspects" of the world's fair, said Scola.

"We Christians have an important task, from this point of view," said Scola, who was quoted by Vatican Radio.

Francis was also interested in plans by Milan Expo organizers who have previously said that they expect to create as many as 800 jobs for youth at the world's fair, including apprentices and on-the-job training in mounting special events.

The jobs are being created through a special protocol designed to cover contracts of at least six months to a maximum of one year.

About 340 designated apprentices, who must be under the age 29, are covered and another 300 fixed-term contracts that could begin this year are provided for, drawing from lists of unemployed workers.

As well, just under 200 intern trainees working in 17 different vocational areas are included under the protocol, earning compensation for their expenses and daily meals. As many as 20 million visitors are expected at the Milan Expo.

Preparations on a 1.1-million-square-meter site have been underway for years.