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VATICAN CITY – James Morris, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, today hailed His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s deep personal commitment to the service of the poor and hungry.

“It is an honour and a blessing to meet one of the world’s greatest humanitarian leaders, the leader of one of the world’s great religious organizations – the Catholic Church,” said Morris, head of the world’s largest humanitarian organization.

“All of the world’s great religions call on their believers to reach out to the poor, to feed the hungry. The World Food Programme is profoundly grateful for the extraordinary work that Catholic organizations and individuals perform across the globe,” said Morris.

Together with WFP, Catholic Relief Services help hundreds of thousands of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Daughters of Charity, who follow in Mother Teresa’s footsteps, provide solace and aid to the poorest of the poor together with WFP in Cambodia and Mozambique. WFP works with the Jesuit Refugee Service in its service of people returning home to southern Sudan, and with people displaced by violence in Colombia. The International Catholic Migration Commission was a valued partner in Afghanistan, Albania and Pakistan.

In addition, many hundreds of parish churches, schools, convents and hospitals help WFP provide food to the hungry. Each year, the Vatican donates US$10,000 directly to WFP to support its work.

On 21 May, the Caritas movement will join WFP when we take to the streets of the world’s major cities, including Rome, to ‘Walk the World’ in solidarity with the hungry.

The Executive Director extended an invitation to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to visit the international headquarters of the World Food Programme in Rome.

The World Food Programme works to assist the victims of food crises and poverty. Sadly, 852 million people around the globe continue to feel the pain of hunger. Some 300 million children are hungry; they are unlikely to grow to be as strong and as bright as they might have been. Every five seconds, a child is lost to his family because malnutrition had rendered him too weak to resist disease. Malnutrition claims more victims every day than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

“We seek a world in which children can grow and learn safe in the knowledge that they need not fear hunger. We need partnerships with people of all faiths. The spiritual, moral and practical support of the Church and of Pope Benedict XVI is a special blessing. It gives us hope that love and charity can indeed triumph over hunger,” said Morris.

Morris was accompanied by his wife, Jackie Morris, Deputy Executive Director, Sheila Sisulu and assistant, Rina Manzo.