Expo Milano 2015 opens: we’ll be there in June

EXPO 2015 kicks off today in Milan, Italy, with 140 countries participating. Centered around the theme of sustainable food production, Expo Milano 2015 is expected to draw 20 million visitors before it wraps up a half-year from now, Oct. 31.

With this world exposition as its backdrop, the Faith, Food & Environment project will hold its second symposium in Milan from June 27-28. The event will gather agricultural leaders, environmental scientists, and faith representatives to explore how faith can inform modern agriculture. These select international participants will delve deeper into the Outcomes which emerged from the initial symposium held in St. Paul, Minn., in November 2014.

Since the beginning of this year, organizers of the Faith, Food & Environment project have kept the momentum rolling. Once the Proceedings of the first symposium were completed, we have sought the input of additional leaders in food and agriculture, as well as active members in faith communities.

In case you missed any of these, let’s highlight a couple of these efforts over the past three months:

In March, a delegation 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 unions, also met with members of the World Farmers Organization. The WFO is also planning an international gathering at EXPO 2015, immediately prior to our 2nd symposium in late June.

Regarding the Vatican representatives, the Faith, Food and Environment delegation took the opportunity to meet with Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and one of the supporters of the project. Cardinal Turkson reaffirmed his commitment, and is expected to attend and address 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.

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. Ennis and Dr. Thompson shared the work of the Faith, Food & Environment project and also listened to the concerns of the family farmers in attendance.

The discussions from these various events will be factored into the proceedings that emerge from the Milan symposium. The consensus of the participants in their deliberations will be used to craft The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader and other reflections that will offer practical ways for the agricultural and food leaders to incorporate their faith into their work and business lives.