11/07/2006, 00.00
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Time to cancel poor countries' debt, says Vatican

Cardinal Martino calls for debt relief in London where, on the Pope's behalf, he bought the first bond issued by the International Financing Facility for Immunisation.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – People living in "extreme" poverty" have been waiting for quite some time to see the total cancellation of their countries' heavy foreign debt on the basis of multilateral and bilateral agreements, this according to Card Renato Martino, chairman of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

In London on behalf of the Pope in order to buy the first bond issued by International Financing Facility for Immunisation (IFFIM), a plan to vaccinate 500, children in the 70 poorest countries in the world by 2015, the prelate renewed the Vatican's request to see the debt of Third World countries cancelled.

He noted that debt relief will open the way for initiatives that will provide universal access to those goods that "will satisfy the basic necessities of life and development such as drinkable water, safe sanitation, nutrition programmes, health care, education and adequate shelter as well as micro-credit, microfinance and employment opportunities".

In his statement released by the Vatican Press Office, Card Martino said that in many statements and speeches the Pope focused on "the importance of sustainable development".

Quoting the Holy Father, he noted that "[t]rue world development, organized and integral, which everyone hopes for, requires . . . an objective knowledge of human situations, the identification of the real causes of poverty and practical responses whose priority is the appropriate formation of each person and community. Thus, the authentic freedom and responsibility that are proper to human action will be put into practice."

"As they have been doing for many, many years," the cardinal noted, "those living in extreme poverty continue to wait for those effective practical measures to be put into practice".

The Pope, he said, by buying the bond, "recognizes the need to quickly provide the funds in order to respond to poverty, hunger, and the lack of educational and literacy opportunities and the ongoing fight against the scourge of malaria and the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis."

The initiative to which Benedict XVI has adhered in order "inspire others to take the step toward concrete action" follows a plan presented by Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, at a July 2004 conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on "Globalization and Poverty" to find ways to finance development.

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