Pope on global development for poor: ‘Too big to fail’

LONDON — An interesting passage from Pope Benedict’s speech to cultural and political leaders this evening at Westminster Hall in London touched on economic development as an area where moral and ethical values are sorely needed.

After saying the global economic crisis was partly caused by a lack of moral input in the world of finance, the pope turned to the fate of poorer countries:

I also note that the present Government has committed the United Kingdom to devoting 0.7% of national income to development aid by 2013.  In recent years it has been encouraging to witness the positive signs of a worldwide growth in solidarity towards the poor.  But to turn this solidarity into effective action calls for fresh thinking that will improve life conditions in many important areas, such as food production, clean water, job creation, education, support to families, especially migrants, and basic healthcare.  Where human lives are concerned, time is always short: yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed “too big to fail”.  Surely the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly “too big to fail”.

Of babies and beans on toast

LONDON — When the pope travels, the Vatican and the host government and local church prepare an incredibly detailed schedule. It’s as if everything is scripted.

Even if Pope Benedict XVI does not appear to be as spontaneous as Pope John Paul II was, unscripted moments are always part of the program.

Today, the pope had lunch and a rest at the Vatican nunciature in London’s Wimbledon neighborhood. Before the pope left to drive into town to meet the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, television cameras outside the nunciature showed a woman coming out the front door with a child.

The woman, an Anglican, told reporters she was babysitting her granddaughter and just stopped by the nunciature to see what was going on. The police waved her in and she and the baby met the pope.

There could be serious envy further along the papal motorcade route. Right near Westminster Abbey, where the pope is expected in a few hours, there is a woman holding a colorful sign saying, “We love U papa more than beans on toast.”

(In culinary terms, beans on toast is a VERY popular British comfort food.)

A cheeky suggestion for papal cost-cutting

LONDON — The European budget airline Ryan Air capitalized on Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival in Great Britain to advertise their very low-cost flights in October.

The ad, which appeared in The Guardian this morning, notes that the papal trip was costing British taxpayers and the church an estimated £15 million ($23.5 million). It implies money would have been saved by having the pope fly RyanAir.

Of course, the ad omits the fact that the cost of flying the pope and his top aides to Great Britain is only a tiny fraction of the visit’s cost. The bulk of the cost is due to security measures and logistical arrangements for handling the tens of thousands of people hoping to see the pope.