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Pope hits out against 'merciless' bank charges
    Pope John Paul II has made an urgent appeal to those concerned to make a 'generous commitment in the battle against the merciless abuse of others' need'.
    Speaking at his weekly general audience on Wednesday, and earlier at a meeting with employees of the Bank of Rome on 11 November, he spoke of the 'worrying phenomenon of usury' and called for help for victims of 'this spreading plague'.
    There is a long tradition of Church opposition to usury, which refers to the exploitation of vulnerable individuals by banks and other lenders through the charging of unjustly high interest rates.
    During his meeting with the Bank of Rome employees, he exhorted them to be sensitive to people with financial problems, and not merely seek maximum profit.
    Usury is extensive in the Italian banking system. Recently the country's Supreme Court condemned some banks for imposing exorbitant interest rates on clients with overdrawn accounts.