A Portuguese priest is looking to banks to return their global financial crisis bailout and to fund the coronavirus rescue.

– “Solidarity, solidarity, solidarity”

Father Lino Maia, the president of the Portuguese National Confederation of Solidarity Institutions (CNIS), told Renascença and Ecclesia April 3 that “it is important that the banking sector is at the service of solving this problem” of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We solved the financial problem of the banks; now it’s up to the banks to look at this situation”, Maia said, in a reference to the 11.8 billion euros in public funds injected into Portuguese banks between 2008 and 2014, after the global financial crisis.

Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said April 4 that he is also in favour of banks paying a “very significant” contribution to the coronavirus recovery, adding that “every Portuguese person contributed to making the banks viable.

“At this moment, knowing that the banking sector is stabilised, it is an opportunity to pay the Portuguese back for what we did”, Rebelo de Sousa declared.

Priest Maia, for his part, said he was “confident that there will be good signs, on the part of the banking sector and that of society in general” in the COVID-19 aftermath.

“First of all, now, it is important that the guidelines that are being given are respected: stay at home: isolation is very important.

“Then, too, solidarity. I think that is what is required, respect the guidelines that are given and solidarity, solidarity, solidarity”.

– “The ‘day after’ will show us a poorer, more depressed country with more people in need of help”

“I am very apprehensive. I think we are at the beginning of the crisis, which will last a long time”, Maia continued, with respect to the COVID-19 outbreak in Portugal which as of Sunday had infected 11,278 people and killed 295.

Half a million workers in the country, moreover, are at risk of being temporarily laid off due to the economic effects of the pandemic.

“I fear that with the prolongation of the crisis, the problems will get worse”, the CNIS president warned.

“Unemployment is going to increase systematically, I have no doubt.

“We will need an emergency program, in fact there are already people who are studying it, parties that are already united in drawing it up.

“The ‘day after’ [the first wave of coronavirus infections] will show us a poorer, more depressed country, with more people in need of help”.

– “Bad, very bad” the lack of European solidarity

Maia was also asked, in his interview, whether all EU member states are showing the solidarity so desperately needed towards the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, including Italy and Spain.

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, for example, lashed out at the end of March at the “repugnant” words of Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra, who called on Brussels to investigate Madrid and Rome for not having funds enough to cover the health emergency.

“It’s a fact” not all European players are rowing in the same solidary direction with Italy and Spain, Maia lamented.

“Unfortunately, the Europe of solidarity, the social Europe that emerged at the end of World War II and which gave such good signs to the world in the late 1960s seems to be in a recession now”, the priest deplored.

“This is bad, very bad. We only imagine a social Europe, a Europe of solidarity. The world must not build walls between nations”.

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.