5 Million Italians Participate in Foreign-Debt Campaign

Collect $16 Million for Development of Guinea and Zambia

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ROME, OCT. 23, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The most impressive result of the Italian Church´s campaign to sensitize public opinion on the issue of foreign debt was not the $16 million collected, but the fact that 5 million Italians responded.

Bishop Attilio Nicora, president of the ecclesial Commission for the Reduction of the Foreign Debt of Poorest Countries, told ZENIT, «In general, the campaign launched by the bishops´ conference has been very satisfactory.»

«Three objectives were established,» he noted. «The first was information and formation, especially in regions where there was good organization at the base, such as missionary offices, Caritas, volunteer organizations, [enabling] a significant number of people to be reached. Let´s not forget the great network of parishes and dioceses.»

«We estimate that 5 million Italians were able to hear serious and documented talks on a very important though complicated issue, resulting in their greater awareness and freedom» to decide, the bishop added.

«The second objective was to increase consistent decisions on economic policy in Italy,» he continued. «In July 2000, Parliament approved a law that is beginning to give concrete results.»

The third objective was the collection of funds. «We wanted to do something concrete, asking Italians for an amount [to be contributed] toward the debt. With this money, we began to intervene first in Guinea-Conakry and then in Zambia.»

«Together with the amount of canceled debt, governments will place the funds in escrow for development projects,» the bishop clarified.

The projects to be funded will be primarily in the areas of health, professional training and basic social amenities, such as potable water.

The immediate plan is to create a foundation to keep the issue of foreign debt alive in Italy, to ensure results from proposals made during the Jubilee Year.

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