POPE Francis has said cancelling the debts of countries unable to repay them is “a matter of justice”, in a document outlining the Pope’s vision for the Catholic Church’s Jubilee year in 2025. The theme for the year is ‘Pilgrims of Hope’.

In the document, Spes non confundit (Hope does not disappoint), Pope Francis also calls for an end to arms sales and renewed action to tackle poverty and hunger. Pope Francis says that rich countries must cancel debts owed by lower-income countries not out “of generosity”, but “of justice”. The Pope says this is because these countries are unable to repay debts, and argues that an “ecological debt” is owed by richer countries, due to “the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time”.

The Pope also appeals for an end to wars around the world, criticising world leaders for failing to respond to the “desperate plea” of people affected by conflict. He calls for leaders to pursue diplomacy and negotiations for peace, and repeats a demand for money spent on weapons to be diverted to “a global fund that can finally put an end to hunger and favour development in the most impoverished countries”.

Christine Allen, Director of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), said: “Pope Francis has outlined a vision of hope that should inspire the world during the coming Jubilee year. But the Pope hasn’t just set out reasons for hope. He’s set us a challenge to give witness to that hope – as individuals and as a society.

“The Holy Father is clear that leaders must ensure the hopes of so many of our global family aren’t quashed by the debt crisis dozens of countries face. Francis explains that debt cancellation is a matter of justice, with numerous governments having to make an appalling choice between paying for basic public services or repaying private creditors.

“Whether by tackling the debt crisis, the climate emergency or the suffering driven by conflict, we’ll be praying that our leaders respond to the Pope’s challenge to tackle injustice and spread hope during the Jubilee. We know CAFOD supporters will be calling in their thousands for them to do so.”

Many governments are spending more money on debt payments than on health or education. Record sums of money are flowing from some of the poorest nations to some of the world’s biggest banks such as HSBC and BlackRock, CAFOD says the UK government can play a crucial role, by passing legislation to compel private creditors to provide debt relief. Such legislation would involve no cost to the taxpayer, but would transform lives across the world, and ensure the UK plays a pivotal role in supporting the development of many low-income countries.

* Read Spes non confundit here.

* More information on the Jubilee Year here.

* Sign CAFOD’s petition on debt relief here.

* Source: CAFOD  and The Holy See