ROME - The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, James Morris, paid tribute today to Pope John Paul II, describing him as a great humanitarian with a huge capacity for compassion, who had provided inspiration for generations of faithful, irrespective of their religion.
Speaking from WFP's global headquarters in Rome, Morris said the Pope's death was an enormous loss.
"I think that more than anything else he personified a commitment to helping others - he was an extraordinary humanitarian, whose compassion was an example to us all," Morris said. "I was privileged to have two private audiences with him and on both occasions I was deeply impressed by his dedication to the poor and hungry - and in particular his interest in the welfare of children."
Morris noted that as well as receiving direct donations from the Vatican, WFP - which is based in Rome - had also benefited from partnerships with Catholic relief agencies in the field. "The Catholic Church has long been on the front line of humanitarian work and the Pope clearly believed that was exactly where it belonged," Morris said.
"Pope John Paul II's energy and determination to visit millions of the Catholic faithful gave him an exceptional understanding of the world's peoples and their problems," said Morris. "He knew at first hand what it is to suffer. This gave him a special affinity for those who suffer from hunger and poverty around the world."
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency; each year, WFP provides food aid to an average of 90 million people, including 56 million hungry children, in more than 80 countries.
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