Catholic Bishops in Africa Appeal for “unpayable” Debt Cancellation ahead of G7 Summit

The Group of Seven (G7) countries who will be meeting in Hiroshima, Japan. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Catholic Bishops serving in the humanitarian and development arm of the Church in Africa are appealing to leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries who will be meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, to deliberate on ways to support African countries that are struggling with poverty, including the possibility of canceling debts that the Bishops term as “unpayable”.

Representing 23 African countries in their statement ahead of the G7 Summit set to start on May 19, the Catholic Bishops at the helm of Caritas in Africa have petitioned those meeting to take action on debt crises, development bank reform and aid for the continent “hit by multiple crises”.

“We, Catholic Bishops from Africa responsible for Caritas and the Pastoral Mission for the Poor, write to you the Group of 7 leaders to request action in support of Africa, which has been hit hard by multiple crises in recent years,” the Catholic Church leaders say.

They add, “We urge the Group of Seven to take bold action to support Africa in this time of need, including debt cancellation, increased aid, and fairer trade policies.”

The Catholic Bishops express their deep concern that poverty in Africa has continued to rise following the COVID-19 pandemic, with more people on the continent increasingly becoming food insecure.


The high levels of food insecurity, the Catholic Bishops say, are exacerbating tension and insecurity in African countries.

“Last year, over 300 million people experienced food insecurity, exacerbating drivers of conflict and social tension in many African countries and making governance more fragile,” they say.

The Catholic Bishops reiterate the message of Pope Francis who they say has emphasized “the need for effective and reliable processes to alleviate unpayable debts.”

According to the Bishops, effective and reliable processes to alleviate unpayable debts require reconnecting debt relief and human development needs, covering all creditors, securing an automatic debt standstill, and making debt relief accessible to all developing countries in need.  

The Catholic Bishops note that given the more than 60 percent of debt are owed to private creditors, debts cannot be reduced without their participation. 

More in Africa

They further note that without new sources of affordable finance for development, and given the immense social and environmental challenges African countries face, they are likely to fall back into debt traps.  

“It is, therefore, essential to rethink Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) as an instrument of finance, and rechannel a significant portion of those held by wealthy countries to Africa,” Catholic Bishops at the helm of Caritas in African countries say.

They laud the allocation of $650 billion in SDRs with support by the G7 countries as “a significant move to provide pandemic crisis relief without adding to the debt burden of countries.”

The Catholic Church leaders however highlight the Holy Father’s emphasis on the need to prioritize the common good and the integral development of all peoples, irrespective of their income levels. 

Pope Francis, they recall the Holy Father’s November 2013 Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel, No. 203), has stated that “the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies” and that “there is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its  turn an economic reform to benefit everyone.”


The Catholic Bishops further reiterate Pope Francis’ call for “a new kind of politics and a different global economic narrative that promotes the human person's dignity and the common good.”

They call for action “to rekindle the future for Africa and its generations”, saying, “We believe that by working together, we can ensure that Africa receives the assistance it requires to overcome these crises and build a brighter future for all.”

“As Pastors of the Church, it is our mission and more urgently now, to listen to the reality of the signs of the times, to the word of God, to our communities and to accompany our people the way we do. It is the latent voices of the poor that we bring to your table as you make decisions that impact lives of ordinary people,” Catholic Bishops representing Caritas in Africa say. 

The G7 Summit, which focuses on a wide range of topics, such as climate change, international peace and security, and global health, brings together leaders from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.