By Dale Gavlak, Catholic News Service     6/1/2016

ISTANBUL (CNS) — Pope Francis sent a message to the World Humanitarian Summit, urging participants to “contribute in a real way to alleviate the sufferings of millions” because of conflicts, violence, persecution and natural disasters.

“In this context, the victims are those who are most vulnerable, those who live in conditions of misery and exploitation,” the pope said in his message to 5,000 participants from 175 countries. His remarks were read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, to a group that included 57 heads of states or governments with the aim of fixing the “broken” humanitarian aid system.

“Today I offer a challenge to this summit: Let us hear the cry of the victims and those suffering. Let us allow them to teach us a lesson in humanity. Let us change our ways of life, politics, economic choices, behaviors and attitudes of cultural superiority,” the pope said.

“Learning from victims and those who suffer, we will be able to build a more humane world,” he said.

“First of all, we must do this in a personal way, and then together, coordinating our strengths and initiatives, with mutual respect for our various skills and areas of expertise, not discriminating but rather welcoming. In other words: There must be no family without a home, no refugee without a welcome, no person without dignity, no wounded person without care, no child without a childhood, no young man or woman without a future, no elderly person without a dignified old age,” Pope Francis said.

He also said the summit was a chance to recognize those “who serve their neighbor and contribute to consoling the sufferings of the victims of war and calamity, of the displaced and refugees, and who care for society, particularly through courageous choices in favor of peace, respect, healing and forgiveness. This is the way in which human lives are saved,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the highest-profile Western leader attending the May 23-24 summit in which outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hoped to restructure the way the world responds to humanitarian crises.

Some prominent relief groups, like Doctors Without Borders, refused to participate, saying the summit may be “a fig-leaf of good intentions” and let those most responsible for spiraling humanitarian need — governments — off the hook.

Pope Francis said that what was needed today was a “renewed commitment to protect each person in their daily life.” Protection of their dignity, human rights, security and comprehensive needs are paramount.

“At the same time,” he said, “it is necessary to preserve freedom and the social and cultural identity of peoples.”

“Cooperation, dialogue and especially peace” must be pursued, he said.