LONDON – Catholic bishops from four continents are appealing to leaders of the world’s richest countries to honor their commitments to combat extreme poverty.
The eight church leaders met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair April 30 and were scheduled to meet with government leaders in Germany and Italy before meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster, England, told Blair that Great Britain could “set an example” to the Group of Eight industrialized nations meeting in Germany June 6-8 by honoring the pledges to more than double development aid to Africa by 2010. G-8 nations made those pledges in Gleneagles, Scotland, two years ago.
Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh told the prime minister about the massive gap between “the proportions of expenditure on weaponry compared to the proportion on the poor.”
After the meeting, Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, said it was significant that Blair had met and listened to the Catholic Church leaders.
“The fact that we came here together from different countries was influential,” he said.
In a four-page statement to Blair and other European leaders, the bishops said that the increasing global economic imbalance “leads us to question the prevalent model of economic growth which operates without reference to the common good and the well-being of the human beings it is intended to serve.”
“If growth is not guided by deliberate policy choices based on clear ethical values, we will face an increasingly polarized world in which humanity is divided into winners and losers,” they said.
The bishops added, “Climate change has made us all too aware of the fragile limits of our environment and of the threat to development and to human life itself posed by uncontrolled, business-as-usual economic growth.”
Among the remedies proposed by the bishops were international taxes to “compensate vulnerable developing countries for damages caused by global imbalances.”
Figures from the 30-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said that despite pledges to increase global aid by $50 billion by 2010, some nations such as the U.S., Italy and Japan have decreased overseas aid within the last year.
Gillian Sandford, spokeswoman for the British bishops’ Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, said the bishops had noted before the meeting with Blair that some G-8 nations were classifying debt relief as aid although it contributed no new resources toward poverty reduction.
Sandford said that during the meeting with Blair the prime minister told the bishops he thought it was right that church leaders should hold parties to their agreement.
The meeting between Blair and the bishops was part of a campaign called “The World Can’t Wait: Make Aid Work,” organized by the Catholic development agencies Caritas Internationalis and the International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity, known by its French acronym as CIDSE.
Besides Cardinals Murphy-O’Connor and O’Brien and Archbishop Onaiyekan, the church leaders meeting the government officials were Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla.; Archbishop Vincent Concessao of New Delhi; Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo; Bishop Marc Stenger of Troyes, France; and Bishop Arrigo Miglio of Ivrea, Italy.