The Greatest Champions of Catholic Credit Unions: Our Popes!

Since Pope Leo the XIII ushered in the modern age with his encyclical Rerum Novarum, every modern pope has encouraged and promoted credit unions. Here are some quotes and other citations from the past several.


“I remember — I was a teenager — I was 18 years old: it was 1954, and I heard my father speak on Christian co-operativism and from that moment I developed an enthusiasm for it, I saw that it was the way…. The cooperative forms established by Catholics such as the implementation of Rerum Novarum bear witness to the power of faith, which today as then is capable of inspiring concrete action to respond to the needs of our people.“ VIDEO-MESSAGE OF POPE FRANCIS FOR THE THIRD FESTIVAL OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH HELD IN VERONA – November 21-24, 2013

“Today, I would like our dialogue to look not only at the past but above all to be directed forward: to new perspectives, to new responsibilities, to new forms of initiatives of cooperative enterprises…. Therefore, do not stop to look only at what you have been able to achieve. Continue to refine, to strengthen and to update the good and solid businesses that you have already built. However, also have the courage to move outside of them, charged with experience and good methods, to carry cooperation to the new frontiers of change, to the existential peripheries where hope needs to emerge and where, unfortunately, the current socio-political system instead seems fatally destined to suffocate hope, to steal hope, increasing risks and threats. This great leap forward which we propose the cooperatives take, will give you the confirmation that all that you have already done is not only positive and vital, but also continues to be prophetic. For this reason you must continue to invent — this is the word: invent — new forms of cooperation, because the maxim, ‘when a tree has new branches, the roots are deep and the trunk is strong’, also applies to cooperatives.” ADDRESS OF POPE FRANCIS TO THE CONFEDERATION OF ITALIAN COOPERATIVES – FEBRUARY 28, 2015, ROME


“Your praiseworthy institutions… bring with them evangelical ideals and a vitality that makes them even more able today to make an effective contribution to the whole community, both from the social viewpoint and in the field of evangelization. In a season of great changes, of persistent precarious economic situation, of difficulties in the world of work, the Church feels obliged to announce Christ’s message with fresh vigor, with the force of humanization and the charge of hope for the future it contains. And, dear friends, you must be aware that Catholic cooperatives have an important role to play in this field…. I would especially like to encourage your work that is so effective and important. May the Virgin Mary protect and help you.” ADDRESS OF POPE BENEDICT XVI TO THE ITALIAN FEDERATION OF COOPERATIVE CREDIT BANKS – DECEMBER 10, 2011, ROME

“It is certainly useful, and in some circumstances imperative, to launch financial initiatives in which the humanitarian dimension predominates…. Above all, the intention to do good must not be considered incompatible with the effective capacity to produce goods. Financiers must rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity, so as not to abuse the sophisticated instruments which can serve to betray the interests of savers. Right intention, transparency, and the search for positive results are mutually compatible and must never be detached from one another. If love is wise, it can find ways of working in accordance with provident and just expediency, as is illustrated in a significant way by much of the experience of credit unions.” CARITAS IN VERITATE, ENCYCLICAL LETTER OF POPE BENEDICT XVI, JUNE 29, 2009


“The institution you represent draws its inspiration precisely from the Church’s fruitful Magisterium and is one of its most significant concrete achievements. In fact, the concept of co-operation and the tradition of solidarity in the sector of bank credit… constitutes a stimulating experience of participation and, at the same time, an effective instrument for attaining a higher level of justice. While respecting entrepreneurial demands, your activity seeks to promote a real economic democracy with credit offered on a human scale.” ADDRESS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II TO CENTRAL INSTITUTE OF CO-OPERATIVE CREDIT BANKS – Friday, 26 June 1998

“Since the 1880s, the lively interest Catholics… have taken in the problem of meeting the needs of the weakest segments of society is well known. They have done this by creating a network of Casse Rurale [a credit union] at the service of the local communities for the purpose of defending family savings, eliminating the scourge of usury and sustaining small- and medium-sized business ventures. In this regard, my venerable Predecessor, Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Rerum Novarum greatly encouraged Catholics to form associations hoping that such institutions might ‘bring their members as great as possible an increase in physical and spiritual wellbeing and access to property’ (n. 42).” ADDRESS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II TO CENTRAL INSTITUTE OF CO-OPERATIVE CREDIT BANKS – Friday, 26 June 1998

“Here we should remember the numerous efforts to which Christians made a notable contribution in establishing producers’, consumers’ and credit cooperatives, in promoting general education and professional training, in experimenting with various forms of participation in the life of the work-place and in the life of society in general. Thus, as we look at the past, there is good reason to thank God that the great Encyclical [Rerum Novarum] was not without an echo in human hearts and indeed led to a generous response on the practical level. Still, we must acknowledge that its prophetic message was not fully accepted by people at the time. Precisely for this reason there ensued some very serious tragedies.”  Centisimus Annus, Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II – May 1, 1991, Rome


After Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical, Populorum Progressio, he then went on to establish a fund in this name to help implement its principles. Among other good works, it directed significant money to the establishment of credit unions.


From the USCCB Website: The right to participate in society has been emphasized frequently in Catholic Social Teaching. Pope John XXIII in 1961 wrote: “Basic justice demands the establishment of minimum levels of participation in the life of the human community for all persons.” In 1986, one of six principal themes articulated in the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter on the economy was: “All people have a right to participate in the economic life of the society.” (15)


Dear Reverend Father,  His Holiness (Pope Pius XII) has been informed of the praise-worthy work being accomplished by the “Credit Union Movement” in Jamaica and in other terri-tories of the West Indies, and He directs me to send you this expression of His paternal interest and encouragement. Always solicitous for the material as well as the spiritual welfare of His children, without dis-tinction of religion, race or colour, the Holy Father could not fail to derive comfort from the knowledge of the meritorious achievements, both economic and social of the Credit Union Movement, in pursuance of the laudable purposes for which it was founded.. He therefore bids me felicitate you on the success that has crowned your efforts in this field, to which you have devoted so much of your priestly energy and pastoral zeal, and He cherishes the prayerful hope that your persevering endeavour in this social apostolate may reap an ever more abundant harvest of spiritual fruits.

As a pledge of that heavenly favour and in further token of His paternal interest and benevo-lence, the Pontiff cordially imparts to you and to your collaborators in the Credit Union Movement His paternal Apostolic Benediction. With sentiments of high esteem and cordial regard, I remain, Yours sincerely in Christ, (Signed) Monsignor Angelo Dell’Acqua (Secretary of State for Pope Pius XII)


Pope St. Pius X, when he was a parish priest, organized credit unions for his people.

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