Receiving a delegation of ageing rockers, economists and civil rights campaigners from the Jubilee 2000 Coalition pressure group yesterday, the pontiff impressed his visitors with an explicit endorsement of their efforts, describing debt relief as a precondition for progress in the fight against poverty.
The delegation, which included the rock stars Bono and Sir Bob Geldof, the American music producer Quincy Jones, and the Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs, urged the pontiff to use his influence to call for a special G8 summit before the year's end, dedicated to the debt moratorium.
"How could you turn this man down?" the U2 vocalist Bono said of the Pope after their meeting. "We could see what a struggle it was, but he made it seem like hanging out with a bunch of economists and pop stars was important. He had the grace to be so light even with such a heavy issue on his mind."
Jubilee 2000 argues that it would cost the Western taxpayers the equivalent of just pounds 2 per year to cancel the debts owed by some of the world's poorest countries. "We have made progress, we are half way there but it must not remain incomplete," said Professor Sachs. "When hundreds of million of people are on the edge of survival, incomplete steps are morally indefensible"