By Robin Gomes
“Could the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis lead to a jubilee of forgiveness of debt, so that those who are in the tombs of indebtedness could find life – untie them, release them,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, in his homily on Sunday.
The Mass by the former Archbishop of Manila was streamed live from Rome’s Pontificio Collegio Filippino (Pontifical Philippine College) on TV Maria, a Filipino Catholic TV channel of the Archdiocese of Manila.
Cardinal Tagle spoke about forgiving the debt of poor countries in the context of the day’s Gospel where Jesus raises Lazarus from death.
He compared the tomb and death of Lazarus to the debt of poor countries, who are yearning for liberation.
Jubilee, in the Biblical context, is a time of grace that celebrates liberation from conditions such as slavery, debt or poverty.
Cardinal Tagle noted that during the current coronavirus pandemic, many are losing their jobs, especially the daily-wage earners. The lack of resources and poverty could be a tomb of many people.
He urged those who can afford, to go to “those tombs and release the poor people who owe them money from their loans and debts.”
While we don’t have enough masks, he lamented “there are more than enough bullets”. “We don’t have enough supplies of ventilators but we have millions of pesos, dollars or euros spent on one plane that could attack people!”
He appealed to rich countries during the Covid-19 crisis, to forgive the debts of the poor countries so that they could use their dwindling resources to support their communities rather pay the interest imposed on them.
Many countries, he pointed out, spend much money on arms, weapons and national security, but “Can we stop wars please?” he asked.
“Could we stop producing weapons… get out of the tomb and spend the money for real security…have a permanent ceasefire?” he asked.
“In the name of the poor,” he said, “let us release money for real security, education housing and food.”