In light of the imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and recalling the social significance that Jubilees had in the Old Testament, I wrote: "In the spirit of the book of Leviticus (25:8-12), Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations."]. As bishops, pastors, and teachers in the United States, we take up the issue of international debt for three fundamental reasons.
Pope John Paul II has called repeatedly for forgiving international debt as a sign of true solidarity.
The continued urgency of this problem is also brought home to us by Catholic Relief Services and others whose efforts to promote development in the world's poorest countries are frustrated by the debilitating effects of debt. The jubilee year was meant to restore this social justice. We hope that further dialogue on this urgent question will contribute to building a consensus for decisive action to relieve the burden of debt.
Focusing attention on international debt is especially appropriate as we prepare to celebrate the Great Jubilee Year 2000. The Jubilee Year 2000 can be a time for a new beginning for impoverished nations and an opportunity to reestablish relations of justice by finding a solution to the problem of international debt.
These are the serious wounds that Zambians experience because of debt and the demand for debt servicing. In most cases, those who bear the burden of repaying the debt had no voice in the decision to borrow and did not benefit from it; in some cases, the borrowed funds were wasted, used for extravagant activities, or even stolen by unprincipled officials.
The Church in her pastoral concern cannot ignore this difficult situation, since it touches the life of so many people. What servicing this debt means for Zambians [is] lack of education opportunities, inadequate health care facilities, poor housing, water and sanitation structures, insufficient productive investments for promoting jobs, etc. First, the burden of the external debt of the poorest countries is crushing the lives and dignity of vulnerable children, women, and men.