Archbishop of Newark
Member, Committee on International Policy,
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Member, Board of Directors, Catholic Relief Services
October 2, 2000
Mr. President, Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:
On a day when all of us in Government and in Religion are pained and concerned over violence in the Holy Land and in so many other parts of the world, our thoughts turn to another kind of violence, the endemic violence against human dignity that is caused by oppressive poverty. We believe that this violence can be alleviated in the poorest countries of our world through the forgiveness of debt and generous debt relief.
We are deeply grateful to you, Mr. President, for your unwavering commitment to this goal. We are grateful also to the Members of Congress -- notably through the leadership of many who are here today from both houses and from both sides of the aisle who helped to fashion legislation which seeks to accomplish what would so fittingly be one of the great achievements of this Jubilee Year of the New Millennium.
You already know how united and dedicated the religious leadership of our country has been in support of this effort. We believe it is the right thing do, and we believe that this is the right time to do it.
We in the Catholic community have been inspired by the leadership of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, who has eloquently and repeatedly called for urgent action to relieve the heavy burden of debt afflicting so many of the poorest nations of the world. The religious leaders present here, representing different faith communities, join in a common call to this great nation of ours to play a leading role in making a difference today in raising the burden of poverty from the backs of so many of our sisters and brothers around the world, and in giving them new hope and a new beginning.
We were pleased this summer, when the House, with significant bipartisan support, approved $225 million for poor country debt relief. Nevertheless, this falls significantly below the $435 million required for the U.S. to meet its fair share of the debt relief programs approved at the G-8 Summit last year in Cologne, Germany. We ask Congress also to authorize the IMF to use all of the earnings from the investment of gold sale profits for debt relief. Otherwise, we are told, the IMF will very shortly run out of funds for making new debt relief commitments. It appears, however, that this authorization may be held up over issues concerning reform of the IMF.
Of course, I understand the desire for further IMF reforms, but I would urge that this issue be de-linked from debt relief funding. It would be tragic if the effort to resolve complex issues about the role and policies of the IMF became a cause for delay in granting debt relief for the poorest of the poor.
We urge the Congress and the Administration to work together in these coming days to achieve full funding for debt relief. It is our fervent prayer that, a few years hence, we will be able to look back on this Jubilee Year and say that the Unites States made it a year of hope for millions of the world's poor.