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In talk with Clinton, pope calls for global effort to tackle woes

by Daniel Adams | September 19, 2023 at 4:49 a.m.
Pope Francis, seen on a screen, right, speaks with former President Bill Clinton, left, through video conference during the Clinton Global Initiative, Monday, Sept. 18, 2023 in New York. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

NEW YORK -- Pope Francis urged all people to do their part to address the world's problems, especially climate change and the care of children, to open the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Monday in a talk with former President Bill Clinton.

"We are in need of a great and shared assumption of responsibility," the pontiff said through a translator in a videoconference with Clinton. "No challenge is too great if we meet it, starting with personal conversion and the personal contribution that each of us can make to solve it ... No challenge can be overcome alone -- not alone, only together, sisters and brothers, children of God."

The need to "Keep Going" is the theme of this year's Clinton Global Initiative, or CGI, as Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton say they will convene political, business and philanthropic leaders to build on the momentum of the conference's return last year after a six-year hiatus.

"Giving up and giving in is a surefire guarantee that we will not make progress on the major challenges that face us," Bill Clinton said in his opening statement. "Being distracted and majoring in the minors may be momentary good policy, but it's a terrible way to run a railroad -- or a country."

The CGI announced numerous new programs Monday that it hopes will gather new monetary commitments and engagement, including gender equality and continued support for the people of Ukraine.

Hillary Clinton announced that gender equality will now be the fourth pillar of CGI's activities, along with fighting climate change, economic inclusion and public health issues.

"It is time to close the wage gap once and for all," the former first lady said. "It is time to protect and expand access to reproductive health care, abortion and quality maternity care once and for all. It is time to ensure that every girl everywhere can get the education she deserves."

The CGI plans to announce the launch of the CGI Ukraine Action Network, as well as numerous financial pledges, to support nonprofits working in the country.

The CGI Ukraine Action Network is the result of a collaboration between Hillary Clinton and Olena Zelenska, first lady of Ukraine, that began last year. The new organization, which will be formally announced today, is designed to mobilize existing CGI partners, as well as new leaders from around the world, to create and finance new commitments for Ukrainians, according to the CGI. Numerous monetary commitments for Ukraine are also set to be announced today.

For nonprofits working in Ukraine, the spotlight the CGI is offering them, 18 months after Russia's invasion of the country, may be just as important as the monetary commitments.

The nonprofit Save Ukraine, which has opened community centers across the country to help families, especially children, traumatized by the war and works to rescue Ukrainian children who have been detained in Russia, is set to receive commitments of support during the CGI that it plans to open more centers, said Olga Yerokhina, spokeswoman for the charity.

"We know that we have no choice -- we must work hard and we are ready for that," said Yerokhina, who is based in Kyiv. "But we also have this feeling of, 'Guys, please don't leave us because we want to be with you.' If we are not with you, Russia is going to just erase us from the map of the world."

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