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Pope's speech reflects concern over privatisation of water

Pope John Paul II has called water a "gift of God" and a "right of all", insisting that it is "necessary to pay attention to the problems that derive from its evident scarcity in many parts of the world".

The Holy Father was speaking in a message to Brazil's bishops for the 2004 Fraternity Campaign.

Auxiliary Bishop Odilo Pedro Scherer of São Paulo told Vatican Radio that the Brazilian bishops see the privatisation of water as a threat to the right to water of the world's poor. Water has become a commercial commodity in many countries including Australia.

"We are concerned by the privatisation of water, as in many parts of Brazil and the world, water obeys the laws of the market," he said. "We believe that water not only is a consumer good, but a good to which all human beings have a right, even if they don't have money."

In his message, the Pope said that water is not an unlimited resource.

"Its rational and solidaristic use calls for the collaboration of all people of good will with the proper governmental authorities to effectively protect the environment, considered as a gift of God."

"Therefore, it is a question that must be resolved by establishing moral criteria necessarily based on the value of life and respect for the rights and the dignity of all human beings."

Meanwhile CAFOD, the Caritas Catholic aid and development organisation for England and Wales, is conducting a campaign that questions the need for bottled water in countries like the UK and Australia. It is asking shoppers in a London supermarket to see if they can tell the difference between tap, bottled and untreated water.

CAFOD media head Martha Clarke said: "We just want to raise people's awareness of the fact that so many people live without access to clean drinkable water never mind bottled water.

"In the UK consumers spend over $A2.5 billion a year on bottled water compared to the $A175 million that the UK Government spends on water projects in the developing world. In addition the average bottle of water costs $A1.46, which is more than many people in the world have to live on each day."

Water Is a Right of All, Says John Paul II (Zenit 3/3/04)
Water: the Real Thing? (CAFOD 4/3/04)

Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil | Fraternidade e Água: Água, Fonte de Vida
Religious urge Free Trade water exclusion (CathNews 2/12/04)
Catholic lobbyist says water reform 'beyond politics' (CathNews 11/8/03)
A Water Ethic to Renew the Earth (National Catholic Rural Life Conference USA)

5 Mar 2004