Foreign Debt Relief. That international efforts to help poorer nations bring prompt, concrete results to relieve the crushing burden of foreign debt.
Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention this month speaks directly to us, since we are citizens of one of the richer nations holding the debts of poorer nations. The Pope asks us to pray that nations such as ours grant debt relief, not to be merciful, but to be just.
Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Jubilee Year of 2000 “an appropriate time…to reducing substantally, if not cancelling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that the debt of poor nations is a “human problem, affecting the well being of families, the survival of the poor, the bonds of community, and the security of the future.”
Many of the loans have already been repaid, in effect, as poor countries pay debt service without the ability to reduce the principle. For example, from 1970 to 2002 Africa received some $540 billion in loans and paid back $550 billion in principle and interest. Yet Africa still owes $295 billion (Jubilee USA Network).
As members of the Apostleship of Prayer, we are nourished by our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, sign of God’s infinite love. We strive to enter into his Heart to know and feel with Jesus. His Heart was always moved with pity for the poor. He told a parable denouncing a rich man who allowed Lazarus, poor and ill, to suffer at his gate (Luke 16:19-31). Like Jesus, we ought to hold the poor of the world in our hearts. Our own economic “hard times” pale in comparison to the perennial destitution of scores of poor nations throughout the world.
As a start, rich nations should forgive the debts of poor nations so they can devote their resources to their own economic development — creating jobs, fighting disease, and educating their children. With hearts of compassion toward the poor, we pray that our country will take the lead in developing international policies that will help poor nations rise out of poverty.
Reflection — How can you share with others, especially our political leaders, that you support debt relief for poor nations?
Scripture — 1 John 3:17-18 If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.
The Church in Areas of Violence. That local Church communities serving areas torn by violence may be supported through the love and help offered by Catholics around the world.
Recent news reports inform us that more than 150,000 Christians living in the Holy Land have left because of the violence perpetrated by various hostile factions, some directed at them. Thousands of Christians have fled Iraq, as well, threatened and persecuted for their faith. In some northern states of India, Christians are openly harassed, tortured, and martyred.
It’s timely, then, that this month the Pope is asking us to pray for the Church in areas of violence, especially where there is direct persecution. Their suffering is our suffering, because we are one Body. The news reports quote some of the Christians who are remaining in areas of violence: “Don’t forget about us,” they say, and “Please pray for us.”
Let’s pray for them with our whole hearts, offering ourselves for peace in areas of religious conflict all over the world. May Christians everywhere strive with all our might to live peacefully in obedience to the Prince of Peace. May those of other religions — Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists — also be true to their own peaceful creeds. May extremists and fundamentalists not prevail. May all acts of violence cease. May we learn to confer upon one another the dignity due to persons of every age, gender, race, and creed. May we forget old grudges, feuds, and retributions. May we humbly seek peace through patient efforts to communicate. May we learn to forgive our enemies as Jesus did.
The Word of God reminds us over and over again that by living justly we bring peace to our lives, our communities, and the whole world. “What does God require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). The great universal peace of God which passes understanding, the Shalom of Jesus Christ, will not be fulfilled until Christ returns. But in the meantime, the Kingdom of Heaven is already among us. By the power of the Spirit we pray and work for peace.
Reflection — What can you do to advance the peace of Christ at home, in the Church, and in the world?
Scripture — Isaiah 32:17-18 Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security. My people will live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and quiet resting places.
Prayer of the Month
Lord Jesus, you foretold that we would share in the persecutions that brought you to a violent death. The Church formed at the cost of your precious blood is even now conformed to your Passion; may it be transformed, now and eternally, by the power of your resurrection.
— Psalm-Prayer from the Breviary