by Peter Stanford
THE Vatican is preparing a major new document on the subject of foreign debt which will include a call for a moratorium on repayments by Third World nations, according to reliable sources in Rome.
Set for publication either before the end of this year, or early in 1987, the document is the product of a growing and personal concern by Pope John Paul for the dilemmas that debt repayments cause poorer nations. The text has been produced by the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, which is headed by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray.
As well as calling for a moratorium, the new document will also demand more favourable terms for the repayment of debt, and, in a more general context, will raise fundamental moral issues in relation to the financial aspects of foreign debt, sources claimed.
During his visit to Colombia in July (Catholic Herald, July 11), Pope John Paul stated that the debt obligations on Latin American nations were too great. "The poor populations cannot pay intolerable social costs, sacrificing the right. of
development which for them remains elusive, while other populations enjoy opulence". He went on to attack "harsh tributary economic laws, lacking soul and moral criteria" and called for new agreements between north and south on a more "equitable basis".
While in Peru in February, 1985, the Pope appealed to the international community to take up its responsibilities for Third World nations and reschedule debts.
Another part of the initiative for the new Vatican document is believed to have come from Latin American bishops in particular. During a recent ad lumina visit to Rome, Bishop Angelico Sandal°, auxiliary in Sao Paolo in Brazil, brought up the issue of debt repayment and the effect it was having on his country.
The Vatican document comes at a time when the debt crisis has reached a new head, over the case of Peru in particular. The government of Alan Garcia is refusing to use more than 10 per cent of its foreign earnings in servicing its debts.