February 12, 2002

Pope says corruption at root of Argentine crisis

                 VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -- Pope John Paul said on Tuesday political
                 corruption, egoism and poor management were to blame for Argentina's
                 economic and social crisis.

                 "Your country is experiencing a profound social and economic crisis...that puts
                 democratic stability and the foundations of public institutions at risk," he told
                 Argentine bishops visiting the Vatican.

                 "The concerns of the present moment should lead to a serious examination of
                 conscience about...the tragic consequences of egoism, the corrupt conduct that
                 many have denounced and the poor management of the country's assets," he said.

                 Argentina, whose economy has not grown for more than four years, is struggling
                 with its worst ever crisis involving both financial chaos and violent street protests.

                 Many analysts say government leaders have mismanaged Latin America's third
                 biggest economy and Argentines have repeatedly complained of corruption.

                 "At the root of this painful situation there is a profound moral crisis," the Pope said.
                 "Corruption and impunity run the risk of becoming generalized."

                 The Pope, who has visited Argentina twice, urged the bishops to take part in
                 dialogue to promote "honesty, austerity (and) responsibility for the common good."

                 After partially defaulting on its debt, Argentina was forced to float its currency
                 against the U.S. dollar this week for the first time in a decade, fueling anguish
                 among residents who worry about dollar debt and the return of hyperinflation.

                 The Pope said it was urgent for politicians, bankers and economists to find
                 technical solutions to jump-start the economy but long-term answers had to be
                 found for the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

                 "It is important to remember that the social situation does not improve just by
                 applying technical measures, but also and above all, by promoting reforms with a
                 human and moral foundation," he said.

                    Copyright 2002 Reuters.