THE Catholic development agency CAFOD has written to every priest in England and Wales to alert them to a threat to the government's overseas aid budget, the charity announced this week.
CAFOD believes that next month's Autumn Statement, outlining the government's fiscal policy. will contain a sharp drop in spending on Third World aid. pushing Britain closer to the bottom of the international league table of aid donors.
The agency has written to 3,044 parish priests, calling on them and their parishioners to voice their fears about the consequences of any cuts to their MPs and Treasury minister Michael Portillo.
Bishop John Crowley, CAFOD's chairman. said: "It is my conviction that any cut in Britain's overseas aid budget would be scandalous and a disaster for millions of poor people across the world."
"The budget is already very meagre and more resources, not less, are needed to respond to the
deepening crisis in Africa where 40 million people are at risk from starvation," he said.
Mark Topping of CAFOD warned that if the cuts went ahead Britain's contribution to the Third World could drop by about £250 million, representing a fall of 15 per cent on government aid of £1.8 billion last year.
In his election manifesto in the spring. John Major pledged to increase overseas aid to the United Nations target percentage of the Gross National Product of 0.7 per cent. But last year the amount given reached only half that amount, and it is set to fall further if the feared cuts go ahead next year.
• The poor of' the Third World are to foot the bill for rebuilding eastern Europe, CAFOD warned this week. The agency said the EC plans to slash aid to Africa while increasing aid to the former communist bloc by 12 per cent. "The poorest people of the world are to be hit with a double whammy," said Richard Miller, assistant director of CAFOD.