Pope Francis has denounced usury as inhuman, against human dignity and “a dramatic social ill”.
Greeting the National Council of Anti-Usury Foundations after today’s weekly general audience, he said he hoped these institutions “may intensify their commitment alongside the victims of usury, a dramatic social ill.”
“When a family has nothing to eat, because it has to make payments to usurers, this is not Christian, it is not human!,” he said. “This dramatic scourge in our society harms the inviolable dignity of the human person”.
Usury, the practice of illegally lending money with a very high amount of interest, has become more widespread in recent years as individuals and families have struggled to make ends meet during the economic crisis.
In Britain alone, borrowers are paying an estimated £700 million ($1.2 billion) a year to predatory extortionists, according to Illegal Money Lending Team, a UK charity. The organisation says 60 victims of loan sharks are currently in witness protection programmes to avoid intimidation and violence from illegal lenders, according to a Jan. 24 article in the Guardian newspaper.
Also after today’s general audience, the Pope offered some special words to the “Carta di Roma” and “Casa Alessia” associations, which both work to help the needy and refugees, and encouraged them to continue in their challenging work.
He also greeted the families of workers from Castelfiorentino, Italy, recently made redundant following the closure of Shelbox due to the current economic crisis. “While I express my closeness to you, I hope also that the competent authorities will make every effort to ensure that work, which is the source of dignity, is a central concern for all,” he said.