VATICAN CITY — The famous U2 vocalist Bono traveled to the Vatican Nov. 16 to thank the Church for its work to free the world's least developed countries from their foreign debt, enabling them to invest in education.
On Friday, Bono spent nearly an hour speaking with Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, according to Vatican Radio.
In 2000, the Church was an important backer of the “Drop the Debt” campaign, which coincided with the Church's Jubilee Year. Bono was one of the leading figures in the campaign, and he is known for his activism on behalf of the world’s poorest people.
Drop the Debt was an effort to persuade first-world nations to forgive the debt owed them by the poorest countries. The success of that effort has made possible “an extra 52 million children going to school,” Bono told Vatican Radio, since governments were able to use the money they would have had to pay back for investment in schools.
Bono said the Church deserves “incredible credit” for its role in securing debt forgiveness and that Catholics should be made aware of how their faith was central in the efforts.
Jubilee years are celebrations of God's mercy, the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation, and they are rooted in Jewish tradition.
The Jewish tradition of jubilee years was that in every 50th year slaves and prisoners were freed. Debts were also forgiven, which is why the Great Jubilee of 2000 was an opportune time for the Church to advocate forgiveness of foreign debt.
Pope John Paul II met with Bono on the eve of the Jubilee Year to discuss the debt campaign, and, shortly after his death, Bono recalled that “we would never have gotten the debts of 23 countries completely canceled without him.”
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace promotes the Church's social teaching to advance justice and harmony the world over. Bono and Cardinal Turkson were looking forward to further collaboration on development and foreign aid.
Bono told Vatican Radio, “I just think the Church hasn’t done a good job yet of telling people what they’ve achieved, and we were just trying to figure out how best to do that.”