In new year, share the blessing of your time

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – At the beginning of a year people hope will mark the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis urged them to create a “culture of care,” including by sharing the gift of their time with others.
Despite suffering from a bout of sciatica, nerve pain, that left him unable to preside over Mass Jan. 1 in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope sent a homily focused on God’s blessings and on sharing those blessings with others.
Consecrating the new year to Mary, the pope prayed that she would “care for us, bless our time, and teach us to find time for God and for others.”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, read the pope’s homily as he celebrated the Mass for the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and for the Catholic Church’s celebration of World Peace Day.
Only about 100 people, all wearing masks, were in the socially distanced congregation for the Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. Two dozen cardinals, also wearing masks, concelebrated.
In the homily he wrote, Pope Francis returned to themes from his World Peace Day message – “A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace” – and a recent general audience talk about prayers of blessing.
“This year, while we hope for new beginnings and new cures, let us not neglect care,” the pope wrote. “Together with a vaccine for our bodies, we need a vaccine for our hearts. That vaccine is care. This will be a good year if we take care of others, as Our Lady does with us.”
“The Lord knows how much we need to be blessed,” the pope wrote. “The first thing he did after creating the world was to say that everything was good and to say of us that that we were very good.”
But with the birth of Jesus, he said, “we receive not only words of blessing, but the blessing itself: Jesus is himself the blessing of the Father.”
“Every time we open our hearts to Jesus, God’s blessing enters our lives,” he said.
The example of Mary, blessed in a special way, he wrote, “teaches us that blessings are received in order to be given.”
Referring to the Latin roots of the word “benediction” – to speak well – Pope Francis wrote that “we, too, are called to bless, to ‘speak well’ in God’s name.”
“Our world is gravely polluted by the way we speak and think badly of others, of society, of ourselves,” he said. But complaining and denigrating others “corrupts and decays, whereas blessing restores life and gives the strength needed to begin anew.”
The blessing of Jesus’ birth, he wrote, is all the more amazing because God sent the savior into the world as a baby, who was formed in the flesh within the womb of Mary.
“The heart of the Lord began to beat within Mary; the God of life drew oxygen from her,” the pope wrote. “Through Mary, we encounter God the way he wants us to: in tender love, in intimacy, in the flesh.”
As 2021 begins, he said, people should make a commitment to finding time for others.
“Time is a treasure that all of us possess, yet we guard it jealously, since we want to use it only for ourselves,” he wrote. “Let us ask for the grace to find time for God and for our neighbor – for those who are alone or suffering, for those who need someone to listen and show concern for them.”

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No pandemic can extinguish Christ’s light

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – No pandemic and no kind of crisis can extinguish the light of Christ, Pope Francis said.
May people let his light into their heart “and let us lend a hand to those who need it most. In this way God will be born anew in us and among us,” the pope said in his remarks after praying the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 6.
From his studio window of the apostolic palace, the pope indicated the 92-foot-tall spruce tree already standing in the square and the work underway setting up this year’s Nativity scene.
“These two signs of Christmas are being prepared, to the delight of children and adults, too,” in many homes around the world, he said.
“They are signs of hope, especially in this difficult time,” the pope said.
However, it is essential that people go beyond the symbols and embrace their meaning, which is Jesus – “the infinite goodness” that God revealed and made shine on the world, he added.

Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 6, 2020. No pandemic and no kind of crisis can extinguish the light of Christ, the pope said to visitors gathered in the square. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“There is no pandemic, there is no crisis that can extinguish this light,” he told the visitors who held umbrellas or were wearing rain gear under cloudy skies and alternating rain and drizzle.
Before the Angelus prayer, the pope spoke about Advent being a time to prepare for receiving the Lord at Christmas and, therefore, the need for conversion.
Conversion requires a change in “direction and orientation” as well as a change in one’s way of thinking.
One must be sorrowful for one’s sins and want to turn “from evil to good, from sin to love of God” forever, he said.
“To exclude sin, it is also necessary to reject everything that is connected to sin; the things that are connected to sin and that need to be rejected – a worldly mentality, excessive esteem for comforts, excessive esteem for pleasure, for well-being, for wealth,” he said.
Along with being detached from sin and worldliness, one must also be focused on searching for God and his kingdom, and seeking communion and friendship with God, he said.
“But this is not easy,” Pope Francis said.
“Temptation always pulls down, pulls down, and thus the ties that keep us close to sin: inconstancy, discouragement, malice, unwholesome environments, bad examples,” he said.
People may be tempted to become discouraged and believe it is impossible to truly convert.
“But it is possible” and people must avoid these discouraging thoughts as if they were “quicksand,” which will quickly mire one into a “mediocre existence.”
People must remind themselves that “no one can convert by his or own strength,” the pope said.
“It is a grace that the Lord gives you and thus we need to forcefully ask God for it” and “open ourselves up to the beauty, the goodness, the tenderness of God.”
“God is not a bad father, an unkind father, no. He is tender. He loves us so much, like the Good Shepherd, who searches for the last member of his flock,” the pope said.
“You begin to walk, because it is he who moves you to walk, and you will see how he will arrive. Pray, walk, and you will always take a step forward.”

Like parents, God loves his children even at their worst

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While sin may distort and disfigure the image of Christ that every person bears, it does not completely erase it, nor does it remove people from God’s abundant mercy, Pope Francis said.
At his weekly general audience Dec. 2, the pope said that even when a sinner remains “in error for a long time,” God waits patiently, “hoping that the sinner’s heart will eventually open and change.”
“God is like a good father and a good mother: They never stop loving their child, no matter what he or she may have done wrong,” the pope said during the audience, which was livestreamed from the library of the Apostolic Palace.
While continuing his series of talks on prayer, Pope Francis also offered prayers for the victims of a terrorist attack Nov. 28 in Nigeria; 43 farmers near the northeastern city of Maiduguri were brutally murdered.
According to BBC News, no one has claimed responsibility. However, it is believed that either Boko Haram or the Islamic State West Africa terrorist organizations, both active in the area, were responsible.
Remembering the victims, the pope prayed that God would “welcome them in his peace and comfort their families and convert the hearts of those who commit such horrors, which seriously offend his name.”
In his main talk, the pope reflected on blessings, which, he said, are “an essential dimension of prayer.”
Noting that there is a “continual repetition of blessings” in the first pages of the Bible, the pope said that both God and humankind give blessings, and that a blessing “possesses a special power that accompanies the person who receives it throughout his or her entire life and disposes the person’s heart to allow God to change it.”
Even though sin “altered” the beauty of God’s creation and converted the human being into “a degenerate creature capable of spreading evil and death in the world,” it did not take away the inherent goodness embedded in each person, he said.
God did not make a mistake creating the world or people, he said.
“The hope of the world lies entirely in God’s blessing: He continues to desire our good; he is the first, as the poet Peguy said, to continue to hope for our good,” the pope said, citing the French poet Charles Peguy, whose works were heavily influenced by Catholicism.
Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis drew a comparison between God’s love for all and the love of countless mothers who wait in long lines to visit their children in prison.
“They do not stop loving their children, and they know that the people who pass by in the bus are thinking, ‘Ah, that is the mother of that prisoner,’” he said. “Yet they are not ashamed of this, or rather, they are ashamed, but they keep going because their child is more important than shame.”
“Thus, for God, we are more important than all the sins we can commit because he is a father, he is a mother, he is pure love, he has blessed us forever. And he will never stop blessing us,” the pope said.

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At audience, pope renews commitment to fight abuse

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – After the Vatican released its extensive report on Theodore E. McCarrick, Pope Francis renewed the Catholic Church’s pledge to uproot the scourge of sexual abuse.
Before concluding his weekly general audience Nov. 11, the pope made his first public statement on the release of the report regarding the “painful case” of the former cardinal.
“I renew my closeness to all victims of every form of abuse and the church’s commitment to eradicate this evil,” he said.
After reading his brief comment on the report, the pope bowed his head and closed his eyes in silent prayer.
The 460-page report, which was published by the Vatican Nov. 10, chronicled McCarrick’s rise through the church’s hierarchal ranks despite decades of accusations of sexual abuse and abuse of power.
Before his comment on the report, the pope continued his series of audience talks on prayer, reflecting on the importance of perseverance.
He began by saying he was told by someone that he “speaks too much about prayer” and that it was unnecessary.
However, he said, “it is necessary, because if we do not pray, we will not have the strength to go forward in life. Prayer is like the oxygen of life; prayer draws upon us the Holy Spirit who always carries us forward. That is why I speak so much about prayer.”
Jesus taught people to engage in “constant dialogue” with God not only with the example of his own prayer, but also with parables that highlighted the importance of perseverance in prayer.
Reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the tenacious person who knocks unceasingly at his friend’s door asking for bread, the pope said that unlike the friend who relents after constant insistence, God “is more patient with us and the person who knocks with faith and perseverance on the door of his heart will not be disappointed.”
Jesus’ parable of the widow who persistently sought and eventually obtained justice from an unscrupulous judge, he continued, serves as a reminder that faith “is not a momentary choice but a courageous disposition to call on God, even to ‘argue’ with him, without resigning oneself to evil and injustice.”
Finally, the parable of the Pharisee who boasted his merits during prayer while the publican feels unworthy to enter the temple reveals that “there is no true prayer without humility,” he said.
Pope Francis said the Gospel encourages Christians to pray always, “even when everything seems in vain, when God appears to be deaf and mute and it seems we are wasting time.”
“There are many days of our life when faith seems to be an illusion, a sterile exertion,” the pope said. “But the practice of prayer means accepting even this exertion. Many saints experienced the night of faith and God’s silence, and they were persevering.”
True Christians, the pope added, do not fear anything but instead “entrust themselves to the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us a gift and who prays with us.”

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Love of God is always measured by love of neighbor

By Carol Glatz Catholic
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The proof of being on a path of conversion and holiness always consists in loving one’s neighbor, Pope Francis said.
“As long as there is a brother or sister to whom we close our hearts, we will still be far from being disciples as Jesus asks us,” he said before reciting the Angelus prayer with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 25.
The pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading (Mt 22:34-40) in which Jesus said the greatest commandment was loving the Lord with all one’s heart, soul and mind, and the second commandment was loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
With this, “Jesus establishes two essential principles for believers of all times,” the pope said.
The first is that love – not anxious or contrived obligation – must always be the driving force behind following God’s commandments, he said.
“The second fundamental principle is that love must tend together and inseparably toward God and toward one’s neighbor,” the pope said.
“This is one of the major innovations of Jesus’ teachings, and he helps us understand that it is not true love of God if it is not expressed in the love of the other,” and, vice versa, it is not true love of the other if it is not rooted in one’s relationship with God, he said.
Love for God is expressed most of all in prayer and adoration, Pope Francis said, and love for one’s neighbor is expressed by being close to people, listening to them, sharing and caring for others.
“So often we overlook listening to others because it is boring or because it takes up my time,” he said; such feelings even arise when someone else needs someone close during times of trial or sorrow.
“However, we always find time to gossip. All the time! We don’t have time to comfort the afflicted, but lots of time for gossiping. Be careful!” he said.
Communion is a gift “to be invoked each day, but also a personal commitment so that our life is not left to become enslaved by the idols of the world,” he said.
“The proof of our journey of conversion and holiness always consists in love of neighbor,” the pope said.
God’s mercy “does not allow us to be discouraged, but rather calls us to begin anew each day to live the Gospel consistently,” he added.

Pope calls for politics to rediscover its vocation to work for common good

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – People who think politics is sinking to new lows may find comfort in knowing Pope Francis also is concerned about the debasement of what church teaching has described as a “lofty vocation.”
“Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others. In this craven exchange of charges and countercharges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation,” the pope wrote in his new encyclical.
The encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” was published Oct. 4 and urges Christians and all people of goodwill to recognize the equal dignity of all people and to work together to build a world where people love and care for one another as brothers and sisters.
Building that world, he insisted, requires “encounter and dialogue,” processes that allow people to speak from their experience and culture, to listen to one another, learn from one another and find ways to work together for the common good.
“Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools,” the pope wrote. “Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways, one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion.”
The “social aggression” often found on social media has spilled over into mainstream political discourse, he said. “Things that until a few years ago could not be said by anyone without risking the loss of universal respect can now be said with impunity, and in the crudest of terms, even by some political figures.”
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement that “in analyzing conditions in the world today, the Holy Father provides us with a powerful and urgent vision for the moral renewal of politics and political and economic institutions from the local level to the global level, calling us to build a common future that truly serves the good of the human person.”
“For the church,” he added, “the pope is challenging us to overcome the individualism in our culture and to serve our neighbors in love, seeing Jesus Christ in every person, and seeking a society of justice and mercy, compassion and mutual concern.”
In the encyclical Pope Francis had particularly harsh words for politicians who have “fomented and exploited” fear over immigration, ignoring the fact that migrants and refugees “possess the same intrinsic dignity as any person.”
“No one will ever openly deny that they are human beings,” he said, “yet in practice, by our decisions and the way we treat them, we can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human. For Christians, this way of thinking and acting is unacceptable, since it sets certain political preferences above deep convictions of our faith: the inalienable dignity of each human person regardless of origin, race or religion.”
Pope Francis often has insisted that he is not calling for open borders and unregulated migration and, in the document, he again insists on the right of people not to be forced to migrate.
International aid to help people overcome extreme poverty in their homelands is essential, he said, but if such development takes too long, people do have the right to migrate to ensure the good of their families.
“Certain populist political regimes, as well as certain liberal economic approaches, maintain that an influx of migrants is to be prevented at all costs,” he wrote. “One fails to realize that behind such statements, abstract and hard to support, great numbers of lives are at stake.”
For Christians, he said, the answer cannot be to simply bow out of political engagement. Instead, they must act at a local level to build relationships of trust and assistance and support politicians and political platforms that promote the common good.
“Whereas individuals can help others in need, when they join together in initiating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, they enter the ‘field of charity at its most vast, namely political charity,’” he said.
Getting practical, Pope Francis explained that “if someone helps an elderly person cross a river, that is a fine act of charity. The politician, on the other hand, builds a bridge, and that too is an act of charity” but on a larger scale.

Creation must be protected, not exploited, pope says at audience

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Human beings must change their relationship with nature and view it not as an “object for unscrupulous use and abuse” but as a gift they are charged by God to care for and protect, Pope Francis said.
People are called to contemplate creation as a reflection of “God’s infinite wisdom and goodness” and not act as if people are the “center of everything” and the “absolute rulers of all other creatures,” the pope said Sept. 16 during his weekly general audience. “Exploiting creation – this is sin,” he said. “We believe that we are at the center, claiming to occupy God’s place and thus we ruin the harmony of creation, the harmony of God’s design. We become predators, forgetting our vocation as guardians of life.”
The audience was held in the San Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. While the pope maintained his distance when greeting most of the faithful, he approached several pilgrims to sign autographs, speak directly to them or briefly swap his signature zucchetto for one brought as a gift.
Continuing his series of talks on “healing the world,” the pope reflected on the theme of “caring for the common home and contemplative attitude.”
Contemplation, he said, is the best “antidote against the disease of not taking care of the common home” and falling “into an unbalanced and arrogant anthropocentrism,” in which humans place themselves and their needs “at the center of everything.”

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican Sept. 16, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“It is important to recover the contemplative dimension, that is, to look at the earth, at creation as a gift, not as something to be exploited for profit,” the pope said. “When we contemplate, we discover in others and in nature something much greater than their usefulness.”
Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope warned that those who are incapable of contemplating nature and creation, are often incapable of contemplating their fellow human beings.
“Those who live to exploit nature, end up exploiting people and treating them like slaves,” the pope said. “This is a universal law: if you do not know how to contemplate nature, it will be very difficult for you to contemplate people, the beauty of people, your brother, your sister.”
Recalling a Spanish proverb, the pope also cautioned that exploiting creation brings costly consequences because “God always forgives; we forgive sometimes; (but) nature never forgives.”
Citing a recent report that the Pine Island and Thwates glaciers in Antarctica are collapsing due to global warming, Pope Francis said the consequential rising sea levels “will be terrible,” and he called on people to “guard the inheritance God has entrusted to us so that future generations can enjoy it.”
“Each one of us can and must become a guardian of the common home, capable of praising God for his creatures (by) contemplating them and protecting them,” the pope said.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Swat the fly of resentment; use the ointment of forgiveness

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – If people took seriously the Gospel call to forgive one another, the world would be a much better place, Pope Francis said.
“How much suffering, how many wounds, how many wars could be avoided if forgiveness and mercy were the style of our life,” he said Sept. 13 before reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.
The pope was commenting on the day’s Gospel reading, Matthew 18:21-35, in which Jesus tells his disciples to forgive “not seven times but 77 times.”
“In the symbolic language of the Bible,” the pope explained, “this means that we are called to forgive always.”
Jesus’ admonition is especially important for family life, he said. “How many families are disunited, do not know how to forgive each other? How many brothers and sisters bear resentment within? It is necessary to apply merciful love to all human relationships: between spouses, between parents and children, within our communities, in the church and in society and politics as well.”
In the day’s Gospel passage, Jesus emphasizes his point with the parable of the merciful king who forgives the enormous debt of his servant and yet that servant refuses to forgive the small debt of another servant. When the king hears about it, he hands the man over “to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.”
“In the parable we find two different attitudes: God’s – represented by the king who forgives a lot, because God always forgives – and the human person’s,” the pope said. “The divine attitude is justice pervaded with mercy, whereas the human attitude is limited to justice.”
Pope Francis told the people in the square that while he was celebrating Mass that morning, “I paused, touched by a phrase in the first reading from the book of Sirach. The phrase (in the Italian Lectionary) says, ‘Remember your end and stop hating.’ A beautiful phrase.”
“Just think,” the pope said, “you will be in a coffin and will you take your hatred there with you? Think of your end and stop hating, stop resenting.”
Pope Francis said that he knows it is not an easy command to follow because, even when a person thinks he or she has forgiven another, “resentment returns like a bothersome fly in the summer that keeps coming back.”
True forgiveness, he said, “is not something we do in a moment; it is something continuous against that resentment, that hatred that keeps coming back.”
When Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, they say, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
“These words contain a decisive truth,” the pope said. “We cannot claim God’s forgiveness for ourselves if we in turn do not grant forgiveness to our neighbor. It is a condition.”
Pope Francis summarized his talk: “Think of your end, of God’s forgiveness and stop hating. Reject resentment, that bothersome fly that keeps coming back. If we do not strive to forgive and to love, we will not be forgiven and loved either.”

Lack of respect for life, for nature have same root

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A lack of respect for human life from conception to natural death and a lack of respect for the environment are both signs of a person claiming power over something that is not theirs to control, Pope Francis said.
“They are the same indifference, the same selfishness, the same greed, the same pride, the same claim to be the master and despot of the world that lead human beings on the one hand to destroy species and plunder natural resources and, on the other, to exploit poverty, to abuse the work of women and children, to overturn the laws of the nuclear family (and) to no longer respect the right to human life from conception to its natural end,” the pope said Sept. 3.
Pope Francis made his remarks in a speech written for a group of laypeople advising the French bishops’ conference on ways to promote and implement the teaching of “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
The group, which included the actress Juliette Binoche, traveled to Rome by train as a carbon-saving alternative to traveling by plane.

Pope Francis meets with a group of clergy and laypeople advising the French bishops’ conference on ecological policies and on promoting the teaching in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home” Sept. 3, 2020. The actress Juliette Binoche was part of the meeting in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The Vatican press office said the pope handed his prepared text to members of the group and then had an unscripted conversation with them, telling them that his own “ecological conversion” began in 2007 by listening to Brazilian bishops at the Latin American bishops’ meeting in Aparecida, Brazil.
At the time, “I understood nothing,” he said. But he began listening and studying and dialoguing with scientists and theologians. The result was “Laudato Si’,” the encyclical published in 2015.
Ecological concern is a Christian concern, he said.
“The Bible teaches us that the world was not born in of chaos or by accident but by a decision of God who called it – and always will call it – into existence out of love,” the pope said. “The universe is beautiful and good, and contemplating it allows us to glimpse the infinite beauty and goodness of its author.”
Christians have a moral obligation to respect the creation God has entrusted to them “as a garden to cultivate, protect, make grow according to its potential,” he said. “And if human beings have the right to make use of nature for their own needs, they cannot in anyway claim to be its owners or despots, but only administrators who must give an account of their use.”
Jesus taught his followers to live in harmony, with justice, in peace and recognizing others as brothers and sisters, the pope said. But “when one considers nature only as an object of profit and self-interest – a vision that consolidates the whim of the strongest – then harmony is shattered and serious inequality, injustice and suffering result.”

Making the poor a priority isn’t political, it’s the Gospel

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Church teaching on giving priority to the well-being of the poor and marginalized is not a political or ideological choice; it lies at the very heart of the Gospel, Pope Francis said.
The preferential option for the poor, which includes feeding the hungry and drawing close to the excluded, “is the key criterion of Christian authenticity,” he said Aug. 19 during his weekly general audience.
The principle also would include making sure that any vaccine developed for the novel coronavirus helps everyone, he added.
“It would be sad,” he said, if priority for a vaccine “were to be given to the richest. It would be sad if this vaccine were to become the property of this nation or another, rather than universal and for all.”
During his audience, livestreamed from the library of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis continued a series of talks on the principles of the church’s social doctrine as a guide for healing and building a better future, particularly as the world is struggling with a pandemic and its negative effects.

Pope Francis leads his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Aug. 19, 2020. The pope said that the church’s preferential option for the poor includes making sure any vaccine developed for COVID-19 helps everyone. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

In fact, he said, a proper response to the pandemic is twofold:
“On the one hand, it is essential to find a cure for this small but terrible virus, which has brought the whole world to its knees. On the other, we must also cure a larger virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalization and the lack of protection for the weakest.”
“It would be a scandal if all of the economic assistance we are observing – most of it with public money – were to focus on rescuing those industries that do not contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, the promotion of the least, the common good or the care of creation,” the pope said.
These are the four criteria that should be used “for choosing which industries should be helped: those which contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, to the promotion of the least, to the common good and the care of creation.”
Pope Francis said the COVID-19 pandemic “has exposed the plight of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world” and it has made those inequalities and discrimination even worse.
One of the responses that must not be missing is the preferential option for the poor, he said.
This key element of the church’s social teaching “is not a political option, nor is it an ideological option,” he said; it is “at the center of the Gospel.”
Jesus “stood among the sick, the poor, the excluded, showing them God’s merciful love,” he said.
The preferential option for the poor is a duty for all Christians and communities, he said, and it means doing more than providing needed assistance; it requires remedying the root causes and problems that lead to the need for aid.
“Many people want to return to normality” and get back to business, the pope said, but this “normality” must not entail ongoing social injustice and the degradation of the environment.
“The pandemic is a crisis, and we do not emerge from a crisis the same as before: either we come out of it better or we come out of it worse,” he said. “We must come out of it better” and build something different.
The world needs an economy and remedies that do not “poison society, such as profits not linked to the creation of dignified jobs,” but rather profits that benefit the general public.
“We must act now to heal the epidemics caused by small, invisible viruses and to heal those caused by the great and visible social injustices,” he said.
By “starting from the love of God, placing the peripheries at the center and the last in first place,” he said, “a healthier world will be possible.”
The pope concluded by praying, “May the Lord help us and give us the strength to come out of it better, responding to the needs of today’s world.”