Pope Benedict XVI on March 3 received in private audience Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). She briefed His Holiness immediately upon her return from the border of Libya and Tunisia where she witnessed the emerging humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands are fleeing violence.
Sheeran was at the border to launch an emergency response to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable and to help nations in political transition to strengthen their food safety nets.
“I was so moved that His Holiness asked for this briefing and expressed his concern for the innocent people trapped in this terrible tragedy,“ said Sheeran. „It was clear to me as I saw these desperate people pour across the border – more than 2,000 an hour – that the world must act – and must act quickly – to prevent a major humanitarian disaster.“
Time of change
„I was honoured to meet His Holiness once again and convey our thanks for the invaluable support he continues to give to our work feeding the hungry around the world. At a time of rising food and fuel prices and political change that is affecting millions of hungry people the support of the Catholic Church and its many Catholic institutions is more vital than ever, helping WFP to reach the most vulnerable.”
WFP works on a regular basis with many Catholic institutions and non governmental organisations, including Caritas Internationalis and its various national agencies with whom WFP has partnerships in 29 countries, the Community of St. Egidio with whom WFP runs food assistance and health programmes, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
During his pastoral visit to Brindisi, in the south of Italy, in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the importance of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in the city, which is managed by WFP on behalf of the entire humanitarian community.
On Monday a WFP humanitarian flight left the Brindisi UNHRD for Tunisia, carrying a plane load of high energy biscuits for the thousands of people fleeing the violence in Libya