WASHINGTON, April 16 (RNS)-- Pax Christi, joined by 110 religious communities ofnuns and priests, as well as representatives of the National Council ofChurches, the Interfaith Alliance and the Coordinating Council of MuslimOrganizations, Monday (April 16) called on the U.S. government to reducewhat it called "bloated" military spending and redirect those funds tohelping the poor.

"We are no strangers to people suffering from poverty, hunger andliving in substandard housing," said Brother Steve O'Neill, provincialcounselor for social justice of the New York Province of the Society ofMary. "We have ministered to those neglected by society for many, manyyears.

"The federal budget is a moral document," he added. "All publicpolicy must be measured by the effect it will have on those who are poorand vulnerable, how it will enhance human dignity and enable everyperson to reach his or her full human potential."

The call was issued to coincide with "Tax Day," the deadline forfiling federal income tax returns.

"Religious communities are on the front lines confronting theproblems created by poverty," said Nancy Small, national coordinator ofPax Christi USA, the American arm of the international Catholic peacemovement.

"But even the immense range of all their ministries and work can'tmend the cracks our country's most vulnerable fall through when ourgovernment spends enormous amounts on the Pentagon and a minusculeamount on health care, education, job training, housing and other socialneeds," she said.

In a paper released with the call, the Roman Catholic religiouscommunities said that for every 50 cents the United States spends on themilitary, it spends roughly 6 cents on education and 4 cents on healthcare. It said the Pentagon budget for fiscal year 2001 is $305 billion,an increase of $12 billion over 2000.