Pope calls hunger 'global scandal,' urges lifestyle changes

VATICAN CITY Mon Dec 9, 2013 3:01pm EST

Pope Francis leads the prayer to celebrate the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna (Spain's Square) in downtown Rome December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis leads the prayer to celebrate the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna (Spain's Square) in downtown Rome December 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis denounced the "global scandal" of hunger on Monday, calling for an international "wave of prayer" to bring attention to the plight of the needy and homeless.

Since his election in March, Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, has frequently beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality.

"We are in front of a global scandal of around one billion - one billion people who still suffer from hunger today," he said in a video message launching a campaign by Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 164 Catholic charities working in 200 countries.

"We cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist. The food available in the world is enough to feed everyone," he said.

The campaign, called "One Human Family - Food for All", kicks off on Tuesday when anti-hunger activists around the world will pray at the same time for a half-hour starting around 1700 GMT (12 PM ET).

Caritas has dubbed the initiative a "wave of prayer" and has invited members of all religions to join local events.

One inter-faith service will take place on the East Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C., where Congress is considering cuts to food stamp programs.

Francis, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, urged organizations, churches and individuals to "give a voice to all of those who suffer silently from hunger, so that this voice becomes a roar which can shake the world".

The campaign urges governments to include the right to food in their national legislation.

The pope also appeared to call for lifestyle changes, urging people "to become more conscious in our food choices, which often lead to waste and a poor use of the resources available to us".

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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