EXPO 2015 kicked off last Friday in Milan, with 140 countries participating. Centered around the theme of sustainable food production, the expo is expected to draw 20 million visitors before it wraps up at the end of October.
With the world expo as its backdrop, the Faith, Food & the Environment project will hold its international symposium in Milan from June 27-28. The event will gather ag leaders, environmental scientists, and theologians from around the world to explore how faith informs modern agriculture. Participants will delve deeper into the Outcomes that emerged from the initial symposium that was held in St. Paul, Minn., in November 2014.
Since November, the organizers of the Faith, Food & the Environment project have kept the momentum rolling, and have actively sought the input of a diverse array of leaders in food and ag and faith communities. With the Milan event approaching, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some of these efforts over the past few months.
- In March, a delegation of FFE organizers traveled to Rome to meet with Vatican representatives, and even received an audience with Pope Francis. The group, which included the presidents of five farmers union, met with Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a lead supporter of the project. Cardinal Turkson reaffirmed his commitment, and is expected to offer a keynote address at the Milan symposium. Monsignor Peter Wells, the Vatican’s assistant secretary of state, also met with the delegation and discussed the Catholic Church’s interest in protecting family farms and promoting food security. The farmers union presidents also had the opportunity to discuss agriculture with members of the World Farmers Organization.
- In February, Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, and Dr. Christopher Thompson, the academic dean of the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, participated in a conference on family farming sponsored by the French organization Journees Paysannes. Jim and Dr. Thompson shared the work of the FFE project and also listened to the concerns of the family farmers in attendance.
- Catholic Rural Life attended the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC, an annual event that brings together over 500 diocesan social ministry directors, as well as representatives of several major organizations like Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. A focus group was held with 25 social ministry directors from rural dioceses, who were informed about ongoing work of the FFE project and had the opportunity to offer their own contributions. This focus group was part of a larger national effort that included meetings with a variety of food and ag stakeholders.
The input from these various events will be factored into the developments that emerge from the Milan symposium, and will be used to develop The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader, a set of resources that will offer practical ways for the next generation of farmers and food leaders to incorporate their faith into their work and daily lives.
More details about the Milan conference will be announced in the near future.