Bono And Friends Praise "Funky Pontiff" At World Debt Summit

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Bono and Bob Geldof have praised Pope John Paul II for backing a global campaign to cancel debts owed by the world's poorest countries.

The U2 frontman and the Live Aid supremo met with His Holiness at his summer residence in Rome today (September 23), as part of a delegation of musicians, economists and charity workers from the Jubilee 2000 Coalition.

Bono gave the Pope a collection of poetry by Seamus Heaney, and as he handed over the book, His Holiness also grabbed the singer's trademark 'Fly' sunglasses and put them on.

At a press conference following the behind-closed-doors meeting, Bono said: "He's a charming man as well as a holy man. I told him he was a great showman, whereupon he took my 'Fly' shades and put them on. The first funky Pontiff!"

The singer said he was aware that the Pope was not in the best of health and that he was grateful that he made the effort to meet the delegation.

"You could see what a struggle it was for him and yet he made it seem so easy to hang out with a bunch of economists and pop stars. I don't know how you could turn such a man down, and I don't think Bill Clinton wants to turn this man down, or Tony Blair, or Gerhard Schroeder."

Bono has met all three politicians on behalf of Jubilee 2000 in recent months.

Geldof added: "Were the spirit of this frail old man mirrored in a practical way by our political leaders, then the final push of political will to eradicate this unnecessary tragedy would be easily achieved... and I liked his shoes!"

Bono joked that the Pope's red-brown Gucci's may well have been fakes bought in Poland.

"To have that grace, to be so light with such a heavy issue weighing on his mind was something I'll remember always," the U2 singer continued. "And it is a heavy issue that, at the end of the 20th century, there are over a billion people in dire circumstances, and people of my generation are tired of throwing pennies at the problem.

"They want to be part of a bigger idea, to effect the structure of this economy, and this is the biggest and best idea that any of us have heard to deal with such a problem on such a scale."

Quincy Jones, who was also part of the delegation, said: "We're talking about humanity. This man is not in the greatest of health right now, but he put every inch of fortitude and spirit into being involved in the project because he feels the same, if not more so, as we all do.

"I don't think I've been this impressed since meeting Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and Stravinsky, but this was in a whole other realm."

In a prepared statement, the Pope said: "The Catholic Church looks at the situation with great concern, not because she has any concrete technical model of development to offer, but because she has a moral vision of what the good of individuals and of the human family demands.

"She has consistently taught that there is a 'social mortgage' on all private property, a concept which today must also be applied to 'intellectual property' and to 'knowledge'. The law of profit alone cannot be applied to that which is essential for the fight against hunger, disease and poverty."

Ann Pettifor, director and co-founder of Jubilee 2000, added: "It is now up to the world's leaders to rise to the Pope's call and moral leadership."

Latino jazz star Willie Colon said the Western economies could afford to wipe out the debts of their poorer neighbours: "It would take $6 billion to educate everyone in the Third World, and in America they spent $8 billion a year on cosmetics. It would take $9 billion to bring electricity and water to everyone that needs it, and in Europe and America we spent $17 billion on dog food.

"It really is a shame. It's not gonna cost us anything, we're not gonna feel it, and it's the right thing to do."

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on September 23, 1999 6:27 AM.

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