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The Bond between Benedict and Bono

November 8, 2006

U2 singer Bono, known for his philanthropic causes, teamed up in 2000 with Pope John Paul II to promote debt relief for a number of African countries. Now, Bono and Benedict XVI are joining together in purchasing a $1 billion bond issue that will go towards the vaccination of children in the poorest of countries. The hope is to raise nearly $4 billion dollars in order to provide life-saving vaccines to combat diseases such as polio, which is still pandemic in “third-world” countries. According to the plan, 500 million children will receive vaccinations by 2015, helping to save at least 10 million lives.

The first bond was handed to Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who purchased the bond in Pope Benedict XVI’s name (you can read Martino’s address here). Also purchasing bonds were the current Archbishop of Canterbury and the Muslim Council of Britain. Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Norway are also contributing to the plan.

The United States, however, has not opted to participate in this crucial project, at least not yet. The notion of employing aid pledges in order to raise funds has met opposition from government officials and lobbyists alike. Hopefully, with last night’s change of power into Democratic hands, this attitude will change.

CNN reports: “The bond, which carries a top-notch triple A credit rating, was priced to yield a premium of 31 basis points over the equivalent U.S. Treasury note, reflecting the healthy demand. There are 100 basis points in one percent.

“Of the bonds sold, 25 percent was sold to central banks and official institutions, 25 percent to fund managers, 23 percent to pension funds and 8 percent to retail investors. Banks, corporations and insurance companies bought the remainder.”

What a surprize Pope Benedict XVI has been! I knew of his incisive intellect, his theological prowess and his unwavering faith. However, until his papacy I never knew that Benedict XVI was so concerned for social justice. Reading through the second section of the encyclical Deus Caritas Est has convinced me that this Pope is acutely aware of the absolute necessity of Catholic work toward social and economic justice. We have no excuse to surrender this ministry to “liberal” or “progressive” Catholics. Social justice in the form of working for the poor, working for justice, healing the sick and visiting the forsaken is part and parcel of being a believing, orthodox Catholic. And, as the Pope notes in the encyclical, our charity must transcend national and political borders. In purchasing his bond, Benedict XVI is proving that he personally practices what he publically preaches.

While I am always hesitant to rejoice over the charitable causes spearheaded or publisized by celebrities, I will say that Bono continues to impress and excite me. He does far more behind the scenes than in front of a camera when it comes to philanthropic projects, whether it’s in closed meetings with politicians over debt-relief or during a Vatican visit to garner support for his causes. Bono follows through and genuinely cares. In an age when cynicism over charity abounds (even Mother Teresa has been accused of self-interest by mainstream American journalists), Bono gives me hope that celebrity does not necessarily have to remain a self-serving enterprise.

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