In his speech to the diplomat corps accredited to the Vatican, Francis spoke of the consequences of the epidemic. The health crisis and the fair distribution of vaccines. The crisis of democracy and the coup in Myanmar. The economic crisis and the Next Generation EU plan. The increase in migrants and illegal rejections. Respect for religious freedom.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Solidarity and, even more, "fraternity" is the response that Pope Francis indicates to overcome the many crises – healthcare, economic, political, social, educational and above all human - created by the pandemic that has dramatically demonstrated the interdependence of the different parts of the world, despite the persistent differences between rich and poor countries.
The pandemic was at the centre of Pope Francis’ long and articulate speech addressed this morning to the representatives of the 183 States - to which the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta must be added - which have diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
Francis recalled the extension "for another two years, of the validity of the Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops in China, signed in Beijing in 2018. The agreement is essentially pastoral in nature, and the Holy See is confident that the process now begun can be pursued in a spirit of mutual respect and trust, and thus further contribute to the resolution of questions of common interest."
The speech on the consequences of the pandemic + was also an opportunity to recall particular situations, from Myanmar - where "the path to democracy undertaken in recent years was brusquely interrupted by last week’s coup d’état" - to Syria and Lebanon - which "risks losing its identity and finding itself caught up even more in regional tensions"- from the Holy Land – where "Mutual trust between Israelis and Palestinians must be the basis for renewed direct dialogue"- to the" deterioration of relations in the Korean Peninsula “, from the persistence of "smouldering conflicts" in the southern Caucasus to that in Libya.
Naturally, the analysis of the "crises" started with healthcare. The pandemic, in the words of Francis, highlighted the "of the value of life, of every individual human life and its dignity, at every moment of its earthly pilgrimage, from conception in the womb until its natural end. It is painful, however, to note that under the pretext of guaranteeing presumed subjective rights, a growing number of legal systems in our world seem to be moving away from their inalienable duty to protect human life at every one of its phases.” Hence the affirmation that healthcare cannot be guided by economic criteria and the renewed demand for “an equitable distribution of vaccines”, which are not reserved for rich countries.
Francis observed however that Earth is also suffering. The environmental crisis has shown itself, in particular, with the effects of climate change, with dramatic consequences such as "the floods in Southeast Asia, especially in Vietnam and the Philippines, which have caused many deaths and left entire families without means of subsistence”.
Covid-19 has also caused an economic crisis, with unemployment, poverty and human exploitation. Francis said that this crisis " provides a helpful opportunity to rethink the relationship between individuals and the economy. There is need for a kind of “new Copernican revolution” that can put the economy at the service of men and women, not vice versa. In a word, “a different kind of economy: one that brings life not death, one that is inclusive and not exclusive, humane and not dehumanizing, one that cares for the environment and does not despoil it.”
"Common and shared initiatives are also needed at the international level, especially to support employment and protect the poorest sections of the population", such as "the allocation of funds proposed by the Next Generation EU initiative".
Francis renewed his request to " forgiving, or at least reducing, the debt that burdens the poorer countries and effectively prevents their recovery and full development " and also the consideration that economic sanctions " which, more often than not, affect mainly the more vulnerable segments of the population rather than political leaders”.
Another consequence of the economic crisis was also the increase in the number of migrants which " increase in migrants who, as a result of the closing of borders, had to resort to ever more dangerous travel routes. This massive flow also met with a growing number of illegal refusals of entry, frequently employed to prevent migrants from seeking asylum, in violation of the principle of non-refusal (non-refoulement). Many of those who did not die while crossing seas and other natural borders were intercepted and returned to holding and detention camps, where they endure torture and human rights violations.”
"Far deeper" than the other crises is the "political and democratic" one. It is highlighted by " the increase in political conflicts and the difficulty, if not actually the inability, to seek common and shared solutions to the problems afflicting our world. This has been a growing trend, one that is becoming more and more widespread also in countries with a long tradition of democracy.” " Vitalizing democracies is a challenge in the present historic moment, one that directly affects all states, whether small or large, economically advanced or in the process of development."
The political crisis has effects also at the international level, even if "there are still encouraging signs, such as the entry into force, a few days ago, of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the extension for another five-year period of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (“New START”) between the Russian Federation and the United States of America”.
Lastly, "the most serious: the crisis of human relationships, the expression of a general anthropological crisis, which concerns the very conception of the human person and his transcendent dignity".
In this regard, Francis stressed that “The need to halt the spread of the virus has also had implications for a number of fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom, restricting public worship and the educational and charitable activities of faith communities. It must be recognized, however, that religion is a fundamental aspect of the human person and of society, and cannot be eliminated. Even as we seek ways to protect human lives from the spread of the virus, we cannot view the spiritual and moral dimension of the human person as less important than physical health. Freedom of worship, furthermore, is not a corollary of the freedom of assembly. It is in essence derived from the right to freedom of religion, which is the primary and fundamental human right. This right must therefore be respected, protected and defended by civil authorities, like the right to bodily and physical health. For that matter, sound care of the body can never ignore care of the soul."
“2021 - concluded the Pope - is a time that must not be wasted. And it will not be wasted if we can work together with generosity and commitment. In this regard, I am convinced that fraternity is the true cure for
the pandemic and the many evils that have affected us. Along with vaccines, fraternity and hope are,
as it were, the medicine we need in today’s world.” (FP)