VATICAN CITY, November 23, 2005 (zenit.org) — Benedict XVI condemned the "social plague" of usury, and said that it should be combated through prevention, solidarity and education.
The Pope made his appeal at the end of today's general audience, which gathered more than 25,000 pilgrims, including 2,000 members of the National Anti-Usury Consultancy. This association of volunteers of Christian inspiration offers guarantees to banks, or technical assistance to free from their grip victims or possible victims of being charged excessive interest rates, and encourages cultural endeavors and activities of formation to promote respect for legality. They celebrated their 10th anniversary by attending the audience in St. Peter's Square and a Mass celebrated later in St. Peter's Basilica.
"Dear friends," the Holy Father said, "your presence in such large numbers gives me the opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation for the courageous and generous activity you carry out in support of the families of people hit by the deplorable social plague of usury. I hope that many people will stand alongside you to support your worthy commitment in the field of prevention, solidarity, and education," he added.
On the same day, in Genoa, Italy, Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone also denounced the usurious practices of international monetary agencies: loans by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as country-to-country loans, are usurious and should be declared illegal, says the archbishop of Genoa.
Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone voiced this criticism when speaking about low-income nations during a congress entitled "We Are Still in Debt: Africa Cannot Wait." The congress was organized by the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission in collaboration with Italy-Africa, the Genoa Municipality, and the Justice and Solidarity Foundation.
"Debt in fact becomes usury when it harms the inalienable right to life, namely, all those rights that have not been given to man but that belong to him by nature," Cardinal Bertone told the congress. His words were broadcast by Vatican Radio.
The cardinal also criticized the "technocrats, especially those of the multinationals, of the World Bank, and of the Monetary Fund, who impose on poor populations unacceptable conditions, such as compulsory sterilization, or the obligation to close Catholic schools."
He described usury as "indirect homicide when it causes death and fosters misery and poverty." He said a debt of $6,000 weighs on each child born in low-income nations, half of whose gross national product goes toward paying the interest on the debt.