COVID-19 and Pope Francis

COVID-19 and Pope Francis

By: Robert Scott

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views  and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser. 

Many people can be described as “a citizen of the world,” but none more than Pope Francis – the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, including 77.4 million Americans. It makes news when Pope Francis writes an OpEd in an American newspaper, as he did last week in The New York Times. What he wrote is noteworthy for all of us, regardless of whether we espouse Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or secular humanism. Pope Francis’ thoughts are particularly apt following one of the most momentous elections in our country’s history. Here are some of them.

“Sometimes,” he wrote, “when you think globally, you can be paralyzed: There are so many places of apparently ceaseless conflict; there’s so much suffering and need…. You see hope written in the story of every nation, glorious because it’s a story of daily struggle, of lives broken in self- sacrifice. So rather than overwhelm you, it invites you to ponder and to respond with hope.

“In every personal ‘Covid,’ so to speak, … what is revealed is what needs to change: our lack of internal freedom, the idols we have been serving, the ideologies we have tried to live by, the relationships we have neglected…. With some exceptions, governments have made great efforts to put the well-being of their people first, acting decisively to protect health and to save lives. The exceptions have been some governments that shrugged off the painful evidence of mounting deaths, with inevitable, grievous consequences. But most governments acted responsibly, imposing strict measures to contain the outbreak.

“Yet some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions – as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom! Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.

“It is all too easy for some to take an idea – in this case, for example, personal freedom – and turn it into an ideology, creating a prism through which they judge everything….

“Look at us now: We put on face masks to protect ourselves and others from a virus we can’t see. But what about all those other unseen viruses we need to protect ourselves from? How will we deal with the hidden pandemics of this world, the pandemics of hunger and violence and climate change?

“This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities – what we value, what we want, what we seek – and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of…. To come out of this crisis better, we have to recover the knowledge that as a people we have a shared destination. The pandemic has reminded us that no one is saved alone. What ties us to one another is what we commonly call solidarity. Solidarity is more than acts of generosity, important as they are; it is the call to embrace the reality that we are bound by bonds of reciprocity. On this solid foundation we can guild a better, different, human future.”

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