Pontiff Urges G8 to Focus on Poverty

German Chancellor and Pontiff Exchange Letters

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has called for the Group of Eight summit to consider debt cancellation for the world's poorest and large-scale investment for fighting killer diseases such as AIDS and malaria.



The Vatican made public today the letters exchanged between Benedict XVI and Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, discussing the upcoming G8 summit to be held this June 6-8 in Heiligendamm.

The Pontiff's letter, dated Dec. 16, said, "I welcome the fact that the question of poverty, with specific reference to Africa, now appears on the agenda of the G8."

"Indeed," the Holy Father said, "it should be given the highest attention and priority, for the sake of poor and rich countries alike."

"I am confident that Germany will exercise positively the leadership role that falls to her with regard to this question of global importance that affects us all," the Pontiff wrote. "Provision must also be made for the rapid, total and unconditional cancellation of the external debt of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries and of the Least Developed Countries."

Benedict XVI continued, while "measures should also be adopted to ensure that these countries do not fall once again into situations of unsustainable debt."

"Moreover, a substantial investment of resources for research and for the development of medicines to treat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other tropical diseases is needed," explained the Pope

The Holy Father underlined that "while these challenges should be undertaken by all members of the international community, the G8 and the European Union should take the lead."

Reform partnership

Merkel's response, dated Feb. 2, said, "For me it is crucial that G8 relations with Africa move towards a reform partnership."

The German chancellor continued, "Alongside increased efforts on the part of African countries, we attach importance to greater commitment of the international communities."

"Fighting HIV/AIDS and strengthening healthcare systems are important priorities," explained Merkel. "Our aim is to change the strategies for combating HIV/AIDS so that they take special account of the situation of women and girls."

"The debt relief initiatives you mention are an important factor in fighting poverty," she added.

"The German Government is also supporting the setting up of a Debt Sustainability Framework. This is an important instrument for limiting the risk of the poorest countries to fall into excessive debt again," the chancellor said.

Merkel concluded, "After all, only if all strong players in the world shoulder their responsibility will we be able to build more justice and peace."