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Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid

VATICAN CITY (Zenit) - Benedict XVI met with the British prime minister and is encouraging his work to aid development despite the global economic crisis. After the meeting today, Gordon Brown told reporters that in the meeting he invited the Pope to visit his country for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), an Anglican convert to Catholicism in the 19th century. "He welcomed the invitation very positively," said Brown. It would be the first visit by a Pope to the United Kingdom since the one made by John Paul II in 1982. Brown, who arrived at the Vatican with his wife and several coworkers, also met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states. According to a communiqué from the Vatican press office, the meeting's "cordial conversations dealt with the present global economic crisis and on the duty to pursue initiatives benefiting the less developed countries, and to foster cooperation on projects of human promotion, respect for the environment and sustainable development." Coincidentally, Brown's visit was preceded by an article about the prime minister on the first page of L'Osservatore Romano titled: "Economic Crisis and the Eradication of Poverty." The article concludes with Brown's words: "Last June 18, Pope Benedict through his secretary of state asked for an 'effective response to the economic crises afflicting several regions of the planet' and the implementation of a concerted international plan of action designed to free the world of extreme poverty. I support this appeal. The London summit in April [of the G20] must see how we respond to the challenge." The newspaper reported that the subscription of bonds of the International Financing Facility for Immunization, also known as the "bonds of the Pope," has collected more than $1.6 million in just over two years. This has helped "to save more than a million lives, especially in developing countries." The first international bond was purchased in 2006 in the Pope's name by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as a tangible expression of the Holy See's commitment to international development. Brown, who at that time was the U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, had presented the project in July 2004 on the occasion of the conference on "Poverty and Globalization: Financing for Development" organized by the Vatican. On Nov. 7, 2006, in London, the World Bank issued the bonds for the purchase of vaccines in 72 countries worldwide. The goal is to immunize 500 million people by 2015. Global outreach The Vatican statement after the audience stated that "hope was expressed for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community in settling ongoing conflicts, particularly in the Middle East." "Finally," it concluded, "several bilateral themes were brought up, of interest above all for the Catholic community in the United Kingdom." In conjunction with this trip, Sarah Brown visited the Community of Sant'Egidio today in Rome. A press release from the community stated that the visit was an opportunity for her to learn about the group's "international activities in favor of peace and speak of DREAM -- Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition -- the state-of-the-art global approach program for treating HIV/AIDS in Africa." The first lady lauded the community's work, saying, "The role of faith organizations such as yours is very important."

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