By Pascale Palmer, guest blogger from Caritas England and Wales (CAFOD)
I stood 30 feet from President Barack Obama yesterday. It’s the first time in my life that when someone (I didn’t know personally) entered the room, I felt the right thing to do was stand up and cheer. Luckily CAFOD’s head of policy stopped me, but I was nearly on my feet.
At the press conference he was joined on the podium by Prime Minister Berlusconi, then Kevin Rudd of Australia and finally a small huddle including Japan, France and the UK. Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, was looking jolly despite the heat and hours of negotiation on climate change.
The right approach
The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is the premier of a gob-smackingly beautiful country. In fact it is well beyond beautiful in parts – it is that awe-inspiring notion of the sublime where man is swallowed up by the immensity of mountain and alluvial plain, and senses his smallness, the presence of God, his place in nature.
Home sweet home
It is actually a two-hour coach ride between our accommodation and the G8 summit. From the half-built Mediterranean Village in Chieti, which is gearing up for the Mediterranean Games, it is a slow 100km to L’Aquila. Yesterday we had Carabinieri and police escorts all the way and I think the route may have had restricted access as the roads were almost empty. Today we seem to be left to our own devices with neither blue lights nor silent highways.
By Pascale Palmer
There were a lot of rumours flying round the G8 yesterday as world leaders fought it out at the negotiating table. China left due to the riots at home, and with them exited a major player on climate. But despite the conflicting whispers, most of what we were hearing sounded pretty grim at the half-way lunchtime mark.
The Italian government is seeking to promote a new assessment instrument at the G8 – a ‘whole of country’ approach to development. This would include other contributions to international development that come from G8 countries, from other sources like the private sector and civil society ranging from trade and investment to remittances.
The full text of the pope’s letter (care of an National Catholic Reporter translation from the original Italian)
To Silvio Berlusconi, President of the Council of Ministers of Italy
Honorable Mr. President:
In view of the upcoming G8 meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the group of most industrialized countries, which will take place at L’Aquila July 8-10 under the presidency of Italy, I’m pleased to send cordial greetings to you and to all the participants. I gladly take this occasion to offer a reflection on the themes of the meeting, as I’ve done in the past. I’ve been informed by my collaborators about the commitment with which the government over which you have the honor of presiding is preparing for this important appointment, and I also know how much attention it’s given to the reflections which, with regard to the themes of upcoming summit, the Holy See, the Catholic church in Italy and the Catholic world in general, as well as representatives of other religions, have formulated.