WASHINGTON (June 14, 1999) -- International debt relief is "not a question of charity but of justice," according to a declaration by Catholic Bishops presented to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder this morning in Bonn.
Bishop Robert A. Banks of Green Bay (WI), Treasurer of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference, yesterday was among 16 Bishops from creditor and debtor nations and the Vatican to sign the declaration "Putting Life Before Debt." The declaration, which includes seven recommendations for alleviating the burden of international debt and for fostering human development, was presented this morning to Chancellor Schroeder who will host the G-7 Economic Summit this weekend.
"As Catholic Bishops from both debtor and creditor countries, meeting on the eve of the Cologne Economic Summit, we reaffirm the urgent need to break the chains of unpayable foreign debts of poor countries," the Bishops said.
The Bishops acknowledged that the repayment of debt is ordinarily a just expectation. But when the repayment of debt results in "hunger and despair for millions of people," debt repayment becomes unjust. They said other Christian denominations share the concern for international debt relief, noting that the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches and the Lambeth meeting of the Anglican Communion, both in 1998, addressed this issue.
"We urge the heads of state and government gathered in Cologne for the Economic Summit to take prompt and comprehensive action to reduce substantially or cancel altogether the debts of poor countries and to restore just relations among peoples," the Bishops said. "Courage and far-sighted leadership are required."
NOTE: The full text of the Cologne Declaration is attached.