It is a real lecture on bank ethics that Pope John Paul II gave in the morning of November 11, 2000 to the 7,500 participants in the Jubilee of the Bank of Rome. He said to them, among other things:
"If money is sometimes represented as the blood of a living organism, banks can be compared to the heart that makes it circulate in the social body. Hence the importance of the banking system and the responsibility of those who administer it towards the people, families and social organizations which ask for their mediation.
"While following its own finalities, a banking institution cannot fail to make reference to the ethical values which direct various aspects of human action. If banks aim solely at pursuing maximum profits for themselves... they do not present themselves as instruments of growth and development for the community, but rather as an element which weighs down or puts the brake (on activity).
"The Church's doctrine affirms the priority of the human factor in the financial and credit aims of every banking institution... Unfortunately, one cannot hide the fact that even today there are deviant forms of credit that can put in danger not only the business activities or family properties, but the very lives of the people who fell in this perverse spiral. I have already on many occasions underlined the difficulties and discomforts in which the victims of speculation linked to illicit forms of credit find themselves.".
At the end of the general audience in the Vatican, Wednesday, November, 22, Pope John Paul II made an urgent appeal against the "worrying phenomenon of usury," and called for help for victims of "this spreading plague." in front of 40,000 faithful, the Holy Father raised his voice and appealed for "generous commitment in the battle against this merciless abuse of others' needs."
Among the faithful were members of the Italian Association of Foundations Against Usury and delegates of several regional foundations. Addressing them, the Pope said: "Usury is a social plague that is spreading and it is totally necessary to go to the aid of all those who are trapped in this net of injustice and grave sufferings. I sincerely hope that, in the context of the Jubilee Year, thanks to the contribution of all, concrete steps may be taken to eliminate this grave scourge."
Usury is extensive in Italy, due, in part, to its banking system. Also in November, the Supreme Court condemned some Italian banks for imposing interest rates on clients with overdrawn accounts that were "higher" than those of "usury."