DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     November 20-22, 1998     vol. 9, no. 228

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO

VATICAN ASKS CANCELLATION OF MITCH VICTIMS' DEBTS AS HONDURAN BISHOPS ACCEPT ROLE IN DELIVERING RELIEF SUPPLIES

          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- In a new public appeal to the developed nations, issued by the Vatican press office today, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has asked for the cancellation of debts owed by the nations suffering from the effects of hurricane Mitch.

          In a statement signed by Archbishop Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, the president of the dicastery, the Council pointed out that the storm had not only caused thousands of deaths, but also the destruction of crops, roads, bridges, and infrastructure, especially in Honduras and Nicaragua. The result will be devastating to the nations' economies, the Council observed, and "calls into question the capacity of these countries, which are already among the most impoverished in the world, to cope with the debt payments."

          The situation calls for "a new gesture" from creditor nations in response to "an immense human tragedy," the Vatican document says. In order to help "programs for sustainable reconstruction" in the devastated region, the Pontifical Council salutes nations which have announced the cancellation of debts, and urged other nations to imitate that gesture.

          Meanwhile, in those ravaged Central American countries the Catholic Church of Honduras has accepted -- "as a challenge and a vote of confidence" -- the role of supervising the delivery of relief supplies to the victims of Hurricane Mitch.

          After a meeting with government representatives and leaders of major relief operations, the Catholic Church agreed to administer the distribution of food, medicine, and other supplies within the relief camps that have been opened around the country to accommodate families left homeless by the storm. The Church will supervise the relief operations for a period of one month. As in the case of Nicaragua, officials indicated that the Church had been asked to fulfill that role in order to avoid any questions of political corruption in the relief operations.

          In Managua, the Nicaraguan bishops' conference issued a stern statement condemning any effort to use the tragic consequences of the hurricane as an occasion for gaining political advantage. The bishops' statement noted "with great sorrow" that some local political authorities were impeding relief efforts, apparently fearful that the entry of donors from outside the region might undercut their own privileged standing. Others, the bishops suggested, were seeking to use the relief operation as a base for political or even religious proselytism. The bishops' statement rejected such efforts, as well as "the language of division and intrigue."



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Nov 20-22, 1998       volume 9, no. 228
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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