Did you know that many families are so deeply in debt
that they have been caught in the net of loan sharks who take advantage of
their situation? Fr. Massimo Rastrelli, a Jesuit from the Gesù Nuovo community in the centre of Naples, Italy, became aware
of this social plague through his pastoral work. He decided to tackle it. He
set up the San Giuseppe Moscati
Foundation in 1991. It was his way of bringing to life the liberation that
the Gospel brings to the poor. Father Rastrelli died in 2018, but his work
continues and grows.
The foundation bears the name of Giuseppe Moscati,
known in Naples as “the doctor of bodies and souls”. This layman, a physician
by profession, was canonized by John Paul II in 1987. Since his death in 1927,
he has been publically venerated in the Jesuit church, the Gesù Nuovo.
The foundation has a revolving fund, the “anti-usury
solidarity fund” of 12,000,000 euros, which it lends to families in difficulty
at an annual rate of about 2%. For these families, it is a door towards
freedom, the liberation from debts that suffocate them, debts contracted with
usurers. A loan shark is often first perceived by a family man as a “friend” or
a “friend of a friend” who offers a sum of money that the family urgently
needs. The terms of the loan are usually unclear, but a closer look reveals
that the interest rates - which are illegal - are, for example, 10% per week or
20% per month.