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Sanctity of life vital alongside fighting poverty, Pope tells UN
09 May 2014 17:10 by Hannah Roberts in Rome

Pope Francis told UN leaders today that human development requires protecting the sanctity of life “from conception to natural death” as well as combating poverty and inequality.

Addressing the heads of all UN agencies, Francis said charity and justice should be based on "an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters, whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death."

The UN must challenge injustice and oppose the “‘economy of exclusion’, the ‘throwaway culture’ and the ‘culture of death’ which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.”

Earlier in the week Francis used his Twitter feed to caution: "A society which abandons the elderly severs its roots and darkens its future."

Francis’ remarks echoed those made by Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who in an address to the bishops of England and Wales warned that the legalisation of assisted suicide – which is due to be debated in the Commons next week – would amount to an attack on "human life as a gift from God".

Some observers questioned whether Francis would use the meeting to defend the Holy See’s handling of the abuse scandal after UN representatives argued earlier this week that abuse amounted to torture. Vatican officials had faced a two-day grilling by the UN committee against torture.

But the Pope diplomatically steered clear of the subject, instead focusing on their shared agenda of working for greater equality and the eradication of poverty.

Francis urged agency heads to work toward social mobilisation “for all the world’s peoples … especially the poorest and those most excluded”.

In order to achieve “equitable development”, good and fair governance was needed as well as co-operation between the private sector and civil society and “a generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level”, he said.

Above: Pope Francis and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via EPA