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Pope Francis calls for global COVID-19 recovery plan in message to World Bank and IMF

PopeFrancisSquarePoint.jpg Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 22, 2016. Credit: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Pope Francis appealed for a global coronavirus recovery plan in a message to participants in the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a letter published by the Vatican April 8, the pope called for a comprehensive approach to rebuilding the world economy in the wake of COVID-19.

He said: “While many countries are now consolidating individual recovery plans, there remains an urgent need for a global plan that can create new or regenerate existing institutions, particularly those of global governance, and help to build a new network of international relations for advancing the integral human development of all peoples.”

“This necessarily means giving poorer and less developed nations an effective share in decision-making and facilitating access to the international market.”

The World Bank Group, founded in 1944, offers loans and grants to the governments of developing countries for capital projects. The IMF, formed in 1945, oversees the global monetary system. Both organizations are based in Washington, D.C.

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The pope’s message was entrusted to Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to be presented during the April 5-11 meetings of the international financial institutions.

The pope wrote: “In this past year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world has been forced to confront a series of grave and interrelated socio-economic, ecological, and political crises.”

“It is my hope that your discussions will contribute to a model of ‘recovery’ capable of generating new, more inclusive, and sustainable solutions to support the real economy, assisting individuals and communities to achieve their deepest aspirations and the universal common good.”

He added: “The notion of recovery cannot be content to a return to an unequal and unsustainable model of economic and social life, where a tiny minority of the world’s population owns half of its wealth.”

In the message, Pope Francis urged the World Bank and IMF’s experts to focus on “the interconnectedness between people.” Citing his recent encyclical, Fratelli tutti, he encouraged them to build a “culture of encounter” by including the marginalized in “long-term inclusive projects.”

The pope repeated his call for the cancelation of the debts of poor countries battling COVID-19, which he first made in his Easter “Urbi et Orbi” address in 2020.

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“A spirit of global solidarity also demands at the least a significant reduction in the debt burden of the poorest nations, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” he wrote in the message, dated April 4.

“Relieving the burden of debt of so many countries and communities today is a profoundly human gesture that can help people to develop, to have access to vaccines, health, education, and jobs.”

The pope also highlighted what he called the “ecological debt” between richer and poorer countries.

“In this regard, I believe that the financial industry, which is distinguished by its great creativity, will prove capable of developing agile mechanisms for calculating this ecological debt, so that developed countries can pay it, not only by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy or by assisting poorer countries to enact policies and programs of sustainable development, but also by covering the costs of the innovation required for that purpose,” he wrote.

He argued that true development could only be achieved through the pursuit of the “universal common good.”

“It follows that public money may never be disjoined from the public good, and financial markets should be underpinned by laws and regulations aimed at ensuring that they truly work for the common good,” he said.

He continued: “It is time to acknowledge that markets -- particularly the financial ones -- do not govern themselves. Markets need to be underpinned by laws and regulations that ensure they work for the common good, guaranteeing that finance -- rather than being merely speculative or financing itself -- works for the societal goals so much needed in the context of the present global healthcare emergency.”

Referring to his Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” message, in which he called for “vaccines for all” threatened by COVID-19, he said that the poor should benefit from “justly financed vaccine solidarity.” He insisted that the law of the market should not come before “the law of love and the health of all.”

Concluding his message, he wrote: “It is my hope that in these days your formal deliberations and your personal encounters will bear much fruit for the discernment of wise solutions for a more inclusive and sustainable future.”

“A future where finance is at the service of the common good, where the vulnerable and the marginalized are placed at the center, and where the earth, our common home, is well cared for.”

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