WelCom September 2020
“We need to tell ourselves this often: That poor person had a mother who raised him lovingly.” – Pope Francis
Pope Francis believes the Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity to genuinely see the humanity of the poor, to rethink global patterns of production and consumption, and to end ‘hypocrisy’ such as lamenting world hunger while manufacturing weapons.
He also called on the Church to be ‘freed in the midst of the crisis’ to meet people’s needs, not ‘closed off in institutions’.
Speaking in an interview, in June, replying to written questions posed to him by his biographer Austen Ivereigh, Pope Francis said he sees the disruptions caused by the pandemic as an opportunity to reflect on the economy and the way the poor are often ignored or treated ‘like rescued animals’.
‘We need to tell ourselves this often: That poor person had a mother who raised him lovingly.
‘We disempower the poor. We don’t give them the right to dream of their mothers. They don’t know what affection is; many live on drugs,’ Francis said. ‘To see them can help us to discover the piety, the pietas, which points towards God and towards our neighbour.
‘St Teresa of Calcutta saw them, and had the courage to embark on a journey of conversion,’ Francis said, referring to the Albanian-Indian nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity. ‘To “see” the poor means to restore their humanity. They are not things, not garbage; they are people.’
The Pope also called for integrity on the part of political leaders.
‘This crisis is affecting us all, rich and poor alike, and putting a spotlight on hypocrisy,’ Francis said. ‘I am worried by the hypocrisy of certain political personalities who speak of facing up to the crisis, of the problem of hunger in the world, but who in the meantime manufacture weapons.
‘This is a time to be converted from this kind of functional hypocrisy,’ he said. ‘It’s a time for integrity. Either we are coherent with our beliefs or we lose everything.’
Francis urged that the implications of the pandemic for social and economic life not be forgotten when it’s over.
‘Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world,’ Francis said, noting that he sees ‘early signs’ of an economy that is ‘less liquid, more human’.
Yet for this conversion to materialise, he said, it’s important to remember the pandemic and not to file it away so that the world can go back to what it was.
‘This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it,’ he said. ‘We have lost the contemplative dimension; we have to get it back.’
Austen Ivereigh made contact with Pope Francis in late March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic was beginning to strongly affect the English-speaking world. Ivereigh is the author of a biography on the pontiff, The Great Reformer, and a book on his pontificate, Wounded Shepherd.
Francis said even though a number of governments have taken exemplary measures to defend the population, the crisis has made it evident that ‘all our thinking, like it or not, has been shaped around the economy’.
‘In the world of finances, it has seemed normal to sacrifice [people], to practise a politics of the throwaway culture, from the beginning to the end of life,’ he said.
An excerpt from this interview with the Pope was offered to the BBC and broadcast on BBC Rethink.
During the programme, the BBC’s Amol Rajan said the Pope’s message ‘argues for a radical recalibration of our priorities, so we think less of ourselves and more of the systems we inhabit whether natural or economic. In that regard it was a call that reaches far beyond Catholicism to something universal: Our capacity to be selfless.’
Sources: Crux, Vatican News, BBC