Naples cardinal launches microcredit institution to help the poor
April 14, 2009--CNS
Saying he wanted to give Easter hope to those "crucified on the cross of selfishness," Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples announced he was setting up a microcredit lending institution and donating a year's stipend and part of his savings to start it.
At a press conference April 8, Cardinal Sepe announced he was using about $65,000 of his own money to establish a "bank of the poor" and he asked the faithful of the archdiocese to give what they could.
The cardinal also asked the deans of each area of the archdiocese to work with pastors to conduct a census of those in their neighborhood in need of food, clothing and help paying rent and utility bills.Diocesan and parish soup kitchens and food and clothing banks would be strengthened according to need, he said.
Explaining the initiative in a pastoral letter for Holy Week, the cardinal said that, with the global economic crisis and the high unemployment rates in Naples, Christians find it difficult to imagine "the joy of the Resurrection because we have in front of us a crowd of hungry people who, like sheep without a shepherd, are asking for bread."
Just in Campania, the region that includes Naples, he said, 200,000 jobs have been lost because of the economic crisis; "200,000 families from our marvelous and martyred land are asking for bread and that number is added to the already large number of people living in situations of extreme poverty," the cardinal wrote.
"I hear their cry. I listen to them every day during parish meetings or as I read the letters they write, and I ask myself if one can remain insensitive to so much pain and suffering. Could a father plug his ears or tell them to go somewhere else for food? Can a bishop, a witness of Christ, be indifferent to so many who ask for help and compassion?" he said.
"As pastor of my beloved flock, I will take the first step toward an ethics of solidarity, giving part of my personal savings and a year's stipend to open the 'bank of the poor' fund," he said. (This is one Cardinal who understands the meaning of the word pastoral. It's not brow beating your flock, it's standing in solidarity with them in their need.)
Cardinal Sepe said the new project would be named after Cardinal Sisto Riario Sforza, archbishop of Naples in 1845-1877, a member of an important and wealthy Italian family, who opened the archbishop's residence to people left homeless after an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the 1860s and who gave away his personal fortune to help the poor of the archdiocese in the 1870s.
The fund, Cardinal Sepe said, would give priority to young people struggling to find a job and to those who recently have lost their jobs.
"Far from being a handout, microcredit will help the creativity and ingenuity of our people emerge," he wrote in his pastoral letter. "Giving microcredit to someone who cannot offer a guarantee other than the promise to pay the money back interest-free with small payments over time means having the courage to believe in men and women and to trust in the possibility of multiplying loaves and fishes," like Jesus did, he said. (WOW, this is quite the statement and it's also Christian belief in it's purest form.)
The archdiocese said the regulations for determining eligibility to receive funds and instructions for applying for the loans would be published after a period of fundraising.
It's not often lately that a person can find a story about a Cardinal which has no sexual or political overtones, but is instead, a story about real pastoral care. Maybe the winds of change are beginning to blow through the hierarchy. Here's another story, about another bishop, who like Cardinal Egan, is coming out in favor of married priests. However, unlike the soon to be retired Cardinal Egan, Bishop Gosler is a recent appointee:
New bishop calls for married priests---
The Tablet, April 11, 2009
A priest who is in favour of ordaining married men and increasing the decision-making powers of women and bishops' conferences has been appointed a bishop to the bilingual diocese of Bozen-Brixen (Bolzano-Bressanone) on the Austrian/Italian border, writes Christa Pongratz-Lippitt.
Bishop Karl Golser told the weekly church paper of the Innsbruck Diocese, Tiroler Sonntag: "In future we will have a pastoral structure which is no longer as clerical and as concentrated on priests as it used to be. The question of ordaining proven married men - whose marriages have proved stable - and who are respected in their communities will therefore come up more and more often. (Knock me over with a feather.)
"The bishop pointed out that the Eastern Churches in full communion with Rome ordain married men, but added that it was a question of consensus and regional bishops' conferences should be given more decision making powers because the attitude to ordaining proven married men varied from continent to continent. (Less clericalism and now decentralization of authority. I'm getting a whiff of Vatican II.)
Bishop Golser said he also thought that women should be more involved in decision-making in the Church. "The Church will grow wherever women are given more such decision-making powers," he said. (Power sharing with women? Is this the winds of Vatican III?)
These are two very encouraging articles. It's hard to believe that here in the States the conversation is still firmly centered on the evils of Notre Dame because elsewhere in the global Catholic world other and more important issues are taking center stage.
There are days I am truly glad American Catholicism is not representative of Global Catholicism and this is one of those days. Kudos to Cardinal Sepe and Bishop Golser for realistically dealing with serious pastoral issues. One wonders how many abortions Cardinal Sepe's 'bank of the poor' will prevent because he has the courage to loan money to people who otherwise wouldn't be eligible for loans. I suspect he will be surprised with how self sustaining his experiment in 'loaves and fishes' will turn out to be. Oh that our own bishops would put their own money where their mouths are.