• Quote: ‘We don’t have enough supplies or ventilators – but countries spend millions on just one warplane’ – Cardinal Tagle

By Andrew Atkinson

Could the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis lead to a ‘jubilee’, a forgiveness of debt, so that those who are in the tombs of indebtedness can find life?

Those are the words of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and president of Caritas Internationalis, in a Mass in the sacristy of the Pontifical Filipino College in Rome.

Preaching about the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, Canon Tagle looked at a variety of ways people can be in ‘tombs’ – and in need of light, fresh air and new life.

Citing specifically the coronavirus pandemic, Canon Tagle said people are losing their jobs – especially daily wage earners – a lack of resources, and that poverty could be one tomb right now for many poor people.

“Could those who could afford to go to those tombs and release the poor people who owe them money, release them from their debt?”, said Canon Tagle.

“Could rich countries do the same for poor countries,” he said.

Calling for a forgiveness of foreign debt, so that impoverished nations can use the few resources they have, to fight the virus.

And help their people, rather than making huge interest payments.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Golden Boy of the Vatican, is widely tipped to become Asia’s first pope

The Catholics’ ‘jubilee’ is in relation to the Church’s Holy years – special times of prayer and pilgrimage – with a focus on forgiveness of sins.

From the Book of Leviticus, which prescribed an observance every 50 years, that included solid promises to restore property to the poor, forgive their debts and release them from servitude.

The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and wealthy countries, are looked at to suspend debt payments for poor countries, so they can bolster healthcare; offer a process for debt to be eliminated for developing countries; make it easier for all countries to restructure their debt; and provide aid and financing to all countries.

This, so they can survive the growing health and economic crisis.

The world’s poorest countries need total relief NOW, so they can bolster health care and survive the economic crisis that is being created by the coronavirus pandemic.

It will go down in history as the greatest financial crisis, since the Great Depression.

Governments, including Spain and the UK, have ensured there are stimulus financing packages, that protect the most vulnerable, as an ensurance that workers continue to get paid, at least in part.

In his homily Canon Tagle looked at where nations spend their money, citing that ‘we don’t have enough masks when there are more than enough bullets’.

“We don’t have enough supplies or ventilators – but countries spend millions on just one warplane,” said Cardinal Tagle.

Pope Francis formally endorsed the call of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire, to enable nations to focus on battling the coronavirus pandemic.

In the present crisis it is shameful that some countries have large reserves of weapons, but lack medicines, masks, protective equipment and basic food.

The Cardinal said: “This crisis could become a ‘kairos’ – special moment – for peace and reconciliation if we, as one human family, have the humility to accept that discrimination, prejudice, domination, violence and misplaced spending priorities are folly.

“In other words, the pandemic could teach us to review our priorities as individuals, nations and one human family.

“This emergency urges all of us to help save lives. Our common foe is the infection. We are not each other’s enemy.

“My hope is that after the COVID-19 pandemic is over – hopefully soon – the ceasefire would continue as a global way of life.

“Pope Francis has already granted the plenary indulgence to those infected with COVID-19, to health workers and others working and praying for an end to the pandemic.

“Can we follow his lead – when it comes to individual – and national debts?” said Canon Tagle.