Pope calls for reduction or forgiveness of poor nations’ debt

ROME – Pope Francis on Sunday called for the reduction or forgiveness of the debt of poor nations suffering in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. “May all nations be put in a position to meet the greatest needs of the moment through the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations,” the pope said in a live-streamed Easter message from an empty Saint Peter’s Basilica. The 83-year-old pontiff spoke to the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics from a hauntingly empty Saint Paul’s Cathedral at a ceremony attended by just a handful of priests and a small choir that was spaced out across the marble floor.  The pope’s message was live-streamed for the first time — a bow to technology in the face of a new illness that has changed the shape of society and altered the way religion is observed. “For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties,” the pope said quietly.  “In light of the present circumstances, may international sanctions be relaxed, since these make it difficult for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens,” Francis said. He called for a “reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations” and for European nations to show the same “solidarity” they did in the wake of World War II.  “After the Second World War, this beloved continent was able to rise again,” he said. “The European Union is presently facing an epochal challenge, on which will depend not only its future but that of the whole world.”


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