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Benedict XVI Says Microcredits Can Be a Good Tool

Encourages Seeing Them as Expression of Solidarity

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2006 ( Benedict XVI expressed the hope that various forms of microcredit will become a concrete expression of solidarity with the poor.

The Pope explained this in a telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano to the participants in an international conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on “Microcredit and the Struggle against Poverty.”

In his message, the Holy Father encourages a “renewed commitment to the promotion of the culture of solidarity, inspired in Gospel values.”

The congress, which closed today, was attended by figures such as Marilou Uy, director of the financial sector of the World Bank; Richard Weingarten, executive secretary of the U.N. Capital Development Fund; and Jonathan Morduch, professor of economics and public policy at New York University.

The congress also heard testimonies from Stuart Rutherford, director of SafeSave of Bangladesh; Ben Simmes, director of the investments sector of Oikocredit; and Robert Annibale, director of the microfinance section of Citigroup.

Also introduced were testimonies about the application of microcredit in places such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Peru, India and Cambodia.

Risk factor

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who opened and closed the two-day conference, emphasized “the risk that the microcredit be considered by some as a greedy opportunity to enlarge their own financial markets, guided only by the idea of maximum profit.”

For this reason, the cardinal said, the microcredit “must be conceived as an instrument of finance to integrate the poor in the virtuous processes of development, characterized by a culture of participation and the experience of solidarity, of the leading role of the poor themselves when it comes to giving adequate answers to their problems.”

Marilou Uy explained that the microcredit has existed at least since the 1500s.

The World Bank director pointed to modern experiences of microcredit, such as the Grameen Bank, known as “the bank of the poor” of Bangladesh, and the Mexican “Bansefi,” which offers 5,000 points of access to microcredit, half of them in rural areas.

Uy explained that “the availability of financing, in small amounts, is essential to make economic opportunities that oppose poverty emerge and spread.”

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