DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     November 8, 1999     vol. 10, no. 211


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      Today, we bring you the words from His Holiness Pope John Paul II from last Wednesday November 3 on the first Wednesday of November during his weekly Wednesday Papal Audience at St. Peter's Square where the Holy Father continued his catechesis on the Theological Virtue of Charity, this week emphasizing the need for economic solidarity among both the haves and the have nots and pointed to the Jubilee as an excellent occasion to forgive debts in a spirit of reconciliation and cooperation. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency, article ZE99110322.

"Jubilee calls for Economic Solidarity"

Papal Audience Address from Wednesday, October 13, 1999

        On this past Wednesday, the Holy Father addressed over 12,000 in St. Peter's Square in calling for all nations to reduce the burden of international debt. He warned that in the global economy that if nations and peoples are not in solidarity, there could be dire consequences in all aspects of society and culture from the fallout of the haves to the havenots because of the insurmountable debts being piled up that will prevent man from fully living in human dignity and further burden the lenders as well. He emphasized the importance of forgiveness and the value of ethics of those who are responsible for reducing the debts and entreated them to be Christ-like in their approach and use wealth for the common good.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    1. "Come, blessed of My Father, receive the inheritance of the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Because, I was hungry and you gave Me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me to drink ..." (Matthew 25: 34-35).

        This Evangelical word helps us to make our reflection on charity concrete, spurring us to be set on fire, according to indications in the "Tertio Millennio Adveniente" (Cf. n. 51) with some words of commitment that are particularly consonant with the spirit of the Great Jubilee that we are preparing to celebrate.

        In this connection, it is opportune to refer to the Biblical Jubilee. Described in chapter 25 of the Book of Leviticus, in certain aspects this Jubilee reiterates and expresses more completely the function of the Sabbatical year (Cf. vv. 2-7, 188-22), which is the year in which one had to abstain from cultivating the earth. The Jubilee year occurred after a period of 49 years. It was also characterized by abstention of the cultivation of crops(Cf. vv. 8-12), but it implied two advantageous norms for the Israelites. The first concerned the recovery of both land and buildings (Cf vv. 13-17, 23-34); the second concerned the liberation of the Israelite, who had been sold as a slave to another Israelite to pay off his own debts (Cf. vv. 39-55).

    2. The Christian Jubilee, which was first celebrated by Boniface VIII in 1300, has its own specific nature, but it does not lack content that recalls the Biblical Jubilee.

        In so far as the possession of real estate is concerned, the normative of the Biblical Jubilee rested on the principle according to which the "earth belongs to God" and, therefore, given for the benefit of the entire community. Because of this, if an Israelite had lost his land, the Jubilee year enabled him to regain possession of it. "The lands cannot be sold forever, because the land is mine and you are to me as foreigners and tenants. Because of this, in the whole country that you possess, you will give the right to rescue the land" (Leviticus 25, 23-24).

        The Christian Jubilee calls us to an ever greater awareness of the social values of the Biblical Jubilee that it hopes to interpret and re-propose in the contemporary context, reflecting on the demands of the common good and on the universal destiny of the goods of the earth. Precisely from this point of view, in the "Tertio Millennio Adveniente" I proposed that the Jubilee be lived as "an opportune time to think, among other things, of a consistent reduction, if not the outright cancellation, of the international debt, that weighs on the future of many nations" (TMA, 51).

    3. In connection with this problem, typical of so many vulnerable countries, in the encyclical "Populorum Progression," Paul VI affirmed that a dialogue is necessary between those who provide the means and those who are the beneficiaries, in such a way as "to measure the contributions not only according to the generosity and disposition of some, but also in connection with the real needs and the possibility of use of others. In this way, the developing countries will no longer run the risk of seeing themselves overwhelmed by debts, the payment of which ends by absorbing the best of their earnings" (PP, 54). In the encyclical "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis" I was compelled to point out that, unfortunately, the change in circumstances -- be it in indebted countries or in the international financial market -- have made of the financing itself a "counter-productive mechanism," and this "either because the debtor nations, to pay back the commitment to the debt, see themselves obliged to export capitals which are necessary for growth, or even, just to maintain their level of life, because, for the same reason, they cannot obtain indispensable new financing" (n. 19).

    4. The problem is complex and has no easy solution. It must also be clear that it is not only of an economic character, but involves fundamental ethical principles and must find a place in international law, to be addressed and adequately resolved according to medium and long-term perspectives. It is necessary to apply an "ethics of survival" that regulates relations between creditors and debtors, in such a way that the debtor in difficulty is not burdened by an unbearable weight. It is a question of avoiding abusive speculation, of agreeing to solutions through which those who lend are more reassured and those who receive feel committed to effective global reforms in so far as the political, bureaucratic, financial and social aspects of their countries are concerned (Cf. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, At the Service of the Human Community. An Ethical Appreciation of the International Debt, II).

        Today, in the context of the globalized economy, the problem of international debt is increasingly thorny, but 'globalization' itself demands that one walk on the road of solidarity, if we do not want to meet with general catastrophe.

    5. Precisely in the context of these considerations we make our own the virtually universal request that we have received through the recent Synods, from many Episcopal Conferences and of individual brother Bishops, as well as a large number of representations of religious, priests and laity of making a heartfelt appeal so that the debts contracted may be partially or even totally cancelled at the international level. In particular, the request for payment of exorbitant interests would necessitate taking political decisions that would leave entire populations in hunger and misery.

        This perspective of solidarity, which I had the occasion to point out in "Centesimus Annus" (Cf. n. 35) has become even more urgent in the world situation of the last few years. The Jubilee can be a propitious occasion for gestures of good will: may the richer countries give signs of trust regarding the economic improvement of the poorer nations; may the market agents know that in the vertiginous process of economic globalization it is not possible to save oneself alone. May the gesture of good will to cancel the debt or at least to reduce it be the sign to the world of a new way of considering wealth in function of the common good.

November 8, 1999       volume 10, no. 211


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