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NEWS: The Pope comments on the World Water Forum

AGI Italy reports that Pope Benedict XVI at Sunday Mass today commented on the 6th World Water Forum. The Pope said, “Despite some progress, an adequate access to potable water is not yet guaranteed to a good portion of the world’s population”.

A document published by the Ponticial Council for Justice and Peace on occasion of the 6th World Water Forum states, “a better management of water by public authorities, private oerators and by a civil society” is needed, that the management of water must be approached “with responsibility, sobriety and in the light of the principles of justice and charity”, and emphasizes that governments should “consider water a common resouce and not saleable goods (and therefore) water management with a non-merchandising approach (is required)”.

This week in Marseille, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow commented to the media on this document, “To have the Vatican, with its outreach to millions around the world side with the poor, indigenous and rural communities on the side of water justice is good news indeed.”

Past Vatican commentary on the right to water
This past February, the Vatican News Service reported, “Reasonable access to clean water is a fundamental human right and its distribution should not be left solely to private companies seeking profit, a top Vatican official said. Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told participants at a meeting regarding the future of water supplies around the world that water is not a commercial product but rather a common good that belongs to everyone. People have a ‘universal and inalienable right’ to access, a right that is so fundamental that ‘governments cannot leave its management solely in private hands,’ he said. …Bishop Toso cited Colombia, Philippines and Ghana as examples of countries where water management ‘inspired exclusively by private and economic criteria’ has failed to produce adequate distribution for the population and where water costs three to six times that of large cities such as New York or London. ‘The great paradox is that poor people pay more than the rich for something that should be a universal right: the access to drinkable water,’ the bishop said. People in poor countries, he said, often suffer not for the lack of water but because ‘access is economically impossible.’ …It is the responsibility of political authorities to mediate between private interests and public needs, keeping in mind that ‘the right to water is the basis for the respect of many other fundamental human rights.’” More on this at

The Pope invited to Canada to see the plight of First Nations lacking access to clean drinking water
On March 23, 2011 – the day after World Water Day – David Harper, the grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), had a 15-minute audience with Pope Benedict XVI inside the Vatican. CBC reported at that time that, “Harper used the opportunity to talk about the plight on reserves regarding access to safe and clean drinking water.” At their meeting, Grand Chief Harper invited the Pope to visit First Nations communities in northern Manitoba. The Winnipeg Free Press reported the grand chief saying, “His response was that he will remember us and that he’ll make efforts for an urgent call for advocacy to get it done”. More on the grand chief’s visit to the Vatican can be read at

The World Council of Churches names Canada as ‘rejecting’ the right to water
Also last year, the World Council of Churches Central Committee “issued a statement strongly welcoming the recognition of water and sanitation as a human right by the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council.” Their statement says, “A very limited number of governments have not yet publicly affirmed the rights to water and sanitation. Even fewer remain that continue to explicitly reject either the right to water or the right to sanitation. Included among the most prominent are the United Kingdom and Canada.” Following the UN resolutions, “The WCC Central Committee (has) now urged its member churches to continue the advocacy work affirming the right to water as the right to life. …At the national level, the Central Committee encouraged governments to continue their engagement but to take further steps in order ‘to incorporate the right to water and sanitation into national legislation and policies’.” More on this at

More on the Vatican’s position, along with quotes from Barlow, can be found in the Catholic Register at