Holy See calls for just and equitable distribution of vaccines

A joint document from the Vatican Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life re-affirms the need to make Covid-19 vaccines available and accessible to all.

By Amedeo Lomonaco/Vatican News staff

Vaccines were developed as a public good and must be provided to all in a fair and equitable manner, giving priority to those who need them most.

This is what the Vatican’s Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life have highlighted in a joint document that discusses the essential role of the anti-covid vaccine to defeat the pandemic.

Referring to the Pope’s recent Christmas Message, world leaders are exhorted to reject the temptation to promote “various forms of nationalism” regarding the vaccine, and to cooperate in its distribution. As he said on 25 December, “for these lights to illuminate and bring hope to all, they need to be available to all.”

Principles

Justice, solidarity and inclusion are the main criteria to be followed in order to meet the challenges posed by this worldwide emergency.

The Note describes the criteria set out by Pope Francis in his General Audience on 19 August for positively evaluating companies that deserve our support: that they “contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, to the promotion of the least, to the common good and the care of creation”.

The indispensable guide, therefore, is the “broad horizon that evokes the principles of the Church’s Social Doctrine, such as human dignity and the preferential option for the poor, solidarity and subsidiarity, the common good and the care of the common home, and justice and the universal destination of goods.”

Research, production and biological materials

It is not only the final moment of vaccine administration that needs to be considered. Its entire “life cycle” must be taken into account.

The first steps along this path concern research and production. One often-raised question concerns the biological materials used in vaccine development. “According to the available information, some of the vaccines that are now ready to be approved or applied use cell lines from voluntarily aborted foetuses in more phases of the process, while others use them in specific laboratory tests.”

Recently the Pontifical Academy for Life addressed this issue in two notes that exclude, amongst other things, a morally relevant cooperation between those who make use of these vaccines and the practice of voluntary abortion. Therefore, the document reads, “while the commitment to ensuring that every vaccine has no connection in its preparation to any material originating from an abortion, the moral responsibility to vaccinate is reiterated in order to avoid serious health risks for children and the general population.”

Patents

The issue of production is also linked to that of vaccine patents, because a vaccine is not an existing natural resource, “but an invention produced by human ingenuity.”

Given its function, the document notes, “it is appropriate to consider the vaccine as a good to which everyone should have access, without discrimination, according to the principle of the universal destination of goods highlighted by Pope Francis“. As he said in his Christmas Message, “We [cannot] allow the virus of radical individualism to get the better of us and make us indifferent to the suffering of other brothers and sisters … letting the law of the marketplace and patents take precedence over the law of love and the health of humanity.”

The sole purpose of commercial exploitation, according to the document released by the Vatican Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy of Life, is not ethically acceptable in the field of medicine and healthcare.

“Investments in the medical field should find their deepest meaning in human solidarity.” Thus, it continues, “we ought to identify appropriate systems that favour transparency and cooperation, rather than antagonism and competition. It is therefore vital to overcome the logic of ‘vaccine nationalism’, understood as an attempt by various States to own the vaccine in more rapid timeframes”. It also points to the industrial production of the vaccine as a “collaborative undertaking between states, pharmaceutical companies and other organizations”.

Approval and administration

After the experimental phases, another crucial step is regulatory approval, under emergency conditions, of the vaccine by the relevant authorities, enabling it to be placed on the market and used in different countries. “It is necessary to coordinate the procedures necessary to achieve this objective and promote mutual recognition between the relevant regulatory authorities” the document says.

With regard to administration, the Vatican Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life support the convergent positions on the priorities for vaccination, which would give precedence to professionals “engaged in services of common interest, in particular health personnel” as well as those involved in “activities that require contact with the public (such as school and public security), vulnerable groups (such as the elderly, or people with particular pathologies)”.

This criterion, the document points out, “does not resolve all situations. A grey area remains, for example, when defining the priorities of vaccine implementation within the very same risk group”.

Vaccine distribution also requires a set of tools to allow “universal accessibility”. A distribution programme needs to be developed that “takes account of the collaboration needed to deal with logistical-organizational obstacles in areas that are not easily accessible (cooling chains, transport, healthcare workers, the use of new technologies, etc.)”.

The document adds, “The World Health Organization remains an important reference point — to be strengthened and improved — regarding the emerging problematic issues”.

Vaccines and ethical questions

Regarding the moral responsibility to undergo vaccination, the Vatican Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life reiterate that this issue involves “involves the relationship between personal health and public health, showing their close interdependence…. Refusal of the vaccine may also constitute a risk to others. This also applies if, in the absence of an alternative, the motivation is to avoid benefiting from the results of a voluntary abortion”.

“On the other hand, becoming ill leads to an increase in hospitalizations, with subsequent overload for health systems, up to a possible collapse, as has happened in various countries during this pandemic. This hinders access to health care which, once again, affects those who have fewer resources”.

Action plan

A safe and effective vaccine, available to all and priced so as to allow fair distribution: these are the priorities to ensure a global treatment that also takes into account and enhances local situations: “we aim to develop resources to assist local Churches in preparing for this vaccine initiative and treatment protocols to those in their particular communities”.

Spread across the globe, the Church places itself at the service of “healing the world” by using its voice “to speak, exhort and contribute to assuring that quality vaccines and treatments are available to the global family, especially the vulnerable”.

Building a post-covid world

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD), who leads the Vatican Covid-19 Commission said, “We are grateful to the scientific community for developing the vaccine in record time. It is now up to us to ensure that it is available to all, especially the most vulnerable. It is a matter of justice. This is the time to show we are one human family”.

“The interconnectedness that binds humanity has been revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy of Life. “Together with the Commission, we are working with many partners to point out lessons the human family can learn and to develop an ethics of risk and solidarity to protect the most vulnerable in society”.

Monsignor Bruno Marie Duffé, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development describes this as a crucial phase. “We are at a turning point in the Covid-19 pandemic and have an opportunity to start to define the world we want to see post-pandemic”.

“The way in which vaccines are deployed – where, to whom, and for how much – ” Father Augusto Zampini, Adjunct Secretary of the Dicastery adds, “is the first step for global leaders to take in committing to fairness and justice as the principles for building a better post- Covid world”.

29 December 2020, 12:55

from: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-12/holy-see-calls-for-just-and-equitable-distribution-of-vaccines.html

Covid-19: Vatican Secretary of State calls for international solidarity

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, calls for a commitment to international solidarity, and confirms the Church is close to those who are suffering because of the coronavirus.

By Andrea Tornielli

In an exclusive interview with Vatican Media, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, confirms the closeness of the Church to those who are suffering during this dramatic time of the coronavirus pandemic. He calls for a spirit of “international solidarity” and says this is not the time to “shut ourselves off” from others. 

How are the Pope and the Roman Curia living this crisis?
We are sharing this difficult moment with everyone. It is a dramatic moment for many. I am thinking of the sick, the elderly above all, the dying, their families. We are in the time of the Easter Vigil. The Church keeps vigil with everyone. She is close to those who suffer and are in need. We need to be freed from the imprisonment of a time lived in frustration, from the threat of sickness and death. “Lazarus, come out!” (Jn 11:43), is the cry that resounds in time, particularly now, so as to be a new time of life and spirit. Pope Francis is seeking every way possible to be close to people throughout the world. Contact with people has always been fundamental for him, and he intends to maintain this, even if in a new and unprecedented way. The daily live broadcast of the Holy Mass from Santa Marta is a concrete example. The constant prayer for the victims, their families, health care personnel, volunteers, priests, workers, families is another. All of us collaborators are trying to help him maintain contact with the Churches in all the countries of the world.

This crisis is affecting families, changing people’s lives and causing serious repercussions even on the economic system. What can it teach us?
We are experiencing a tragedy bound to have significant consequences on our lives. First of all, we are being confronted with our fragility and vulnerability.  We realize that we are not creators, but poor creatures, who exist because Someone gives them life at every moment. We are not absolute masters either. All it takes is a mere nothing, a mysterious and invisible enemy, to make us suffer, to make us seriously ill, to make us die. We realize that we are small, insecure, helpless.  We are also confronted with the essential, with what really matters. We are offered the possibility of rediscovering the value of family, friendship, interpersonal relationships, relationships that we normally neglect, solidarity, generosity, sharing, closeness in the concreteness of small things. We need one each other, communities and societies, to help us care for one another.  Finally, I believe this is an opportune moment to return to God with all our hearts, as Pope Francis reminded us during the extraordinary moment of prayer on March 27th, and a few days earlier in the “ecumenical” Our Father, prayed together with all the world’s Christians.

How does Christian faith help us interpret what is happening?
Christian faith is God irrupting in human history. God who becomes flesh, God who comes to share everything about our existence except sin, and is willing to suffer and die to save us. We are preparing to celebrate Easter in this Lent which has been unique: Jesus rises, conquers death, gives life. Faith’s outlook in these difficult times helps us to abandon ourselves more and more to God, to knock on His door with our incessant prayer that He may shorten this time of trial. It helps us to see all the good that surrounds us, and that is witnessed by many people. It is comforting to experience the pastoral creativity, already mentioned by Pope Francis, of bishops, priests, men and women religious, and the commitment of many lay people. They are the “voice” of the Gospel. So are all those (from doctors to nurses to volunteers) who are fighting the disease. I think it is good to see how the Church, which lives immersed in the reality of her people, seeks and finds a thousand ways, using all possible means, to ensure that people are not left alone, that they can pray and receive a comforting word. It struck me that, even in the current crisis, people are finding a way to express themselves – for example through music and song – in order to be together. I would like this to happen in some way in parishes too. It would be nice if all the churches could ring their bells for one minute at the same time, for example at noon; and that this sound might be a call to pray together, even given the physical distance.

What can you tell us about the health situation of the Holy See’s employees?
As you know, at the present time there are seven positive, confirmed cases of Covid-19. At the beginning of March, there was the case of someone who underwent a medical examination in view of employment. In the past weeks, another six have been discovered. All of them have passed the critical phase and are now improving.  Obviously, as in Italy and in all the countries of the world, we are daily and hourly monitoring the situation, thanks to the dedication of our doctors and nurses.

What is the Holy See doing during this time to help the Churches around the world?
Through its Dicasteries, the Holy See is committed to maintaining contact with the local Churches, trying to help, as far as possible, the populations particularly affected by the spread of the coronavirus, regardless of religious or national affiliation, as it has always done.  Since the global health emergency began, the Holy Father himself wanted to express his closeness and solidarity with the Chinese population, sending a gift to the charitable organization Jinde Charities and the Diocese of Hong Kong, and later also to Iran, Italy and Spain. Various initiatives are being studied to provide concrete gestures of solidarity, and to witness charity.

Masses and other liturgies – including funerals – have been suspended. Churches, however, are still open almost everywhere. What does this mean? What do you want to say to the faithful who cannot receive the sacraments?
The suspension of celebrating the liturgy was necessary to avoid large gatherings. However, in almost every city, churches remain open. I hope those that may have been closed will reopen as soon as possible. Jesus is present there in the Eucharist; priests continue to pray and celebrate Holy Mass for the faithful who cannot participate there. It is nice to think that the doors to God’s house remain open, just as the doors of our houses remain open, even though we are strongly encouraged not to go out except for essential reasons. The family is a domestic church. We can pray and prepare ourselves for Easter by following the liturgies and prayers on television. To the many members of the faithful who suffer because they cannot receive the Sacraments, I would like to say that I share their sorrow. But I would like to recall the possibility of making a spiritual communion, for example. Moreover, Pope Francis, through the Apostolic Penitentiary, granted the gift of special indulgences to the faithful, not only to those affected by Covid-19, but also to health care providers, family members and all those who care for them in various ways, including through prayer. In a vigil like this one, there is also another aspect that must be highlighted and reinforced. This is possible for everyone: to pray with the Word of God; to read, to contemplate, to welcome the Word who is coming. With His Word, God has filled the void that frightens us in these hours. God communicated Himself in Jesus, the complete and definitive Word. We must not simply fill time, but fill ourselves with the Word.

Loneliness is one of the biggest challenges at this time. In the Covid-19 wards people are dying alone, without the comfort of relatives who are barred from entering the intensive care units. How can the Church show she is close to people?
This is one of the consequences of the epidemic that, in a certain sense, upsets me. I have read and heard dramatic and moving stories. When, unfortunately, a priest cannot be present at the bedside of a person who is dying, every baptized person can pray and bring comfort by virtue of the common priesthood received with the Sacrament of Baptism.  It is beautiful and evangelical to think that at this difficult time, in some way, even the hands of doctors, nurses, health care providers, who every day comfort, heal or accompany the sick in their last moments, become the hands and words of all of us, of the Church, of the family that blesses, says good-bye, forgives and comforts. It is God’s caress that heals and gives life, even eternal life.

How will the Holy Week liturgies take place in the Vatican?
We have studied different options than the traditional ones. In fact, it will not be possible to welcome pilgrims, as has always been the case. In full respect of the regulations to avoid infection, we will try to celebrate the great Rites of the Easter Triduum in order to accompany all those who, unfortunately, will not be able to go to church.

The crisis is becoming global and is beginning to involve countries in the world’s South. How can the Church contribute to a spirit of mutual help between different nations and continents with different problems, so as not to lose the spirit of solidarity and multilateral collaboration
Unfortunately, we are facing a pandemic and the virus is spreading like wildfire. On the one hand, we see how many extraordinary efforts are being made by developed countries. Many sacrifices have been made by ordinary individuals, families and national economies, to effectively tackle the health crisis and combat the spread of the virus. On the other hand, however, I must confess that I am even more concerned about the situation in the less developed countries. There, health care facilities are not able to ensure necessary and adequate care for the population in the event of a more widespread diffusion of the Covid-19 virus.  The Holy See’s vocation is to consider the entire world. It seeks not to forget those who are farthest away, those who suffer the most, those who perhaps struggle to gain the attention of the international media. This is not only a concern linked to the current pandemic emergency. How many wars, how many epidemics, how many famines scourge so many of our brothers and sisters! There is a real need to pray and to commit ourselves, all of us, so that international solidarity never fails. Despite the emergency, despite the fear, now is not the time to shut ourselves off from others. In these days, we are, unfortunately, realizing this: problems and tragedies that we usually consider far from our lives, have knocked on our doors. It is an opportunity to feel more united and to nurture the spirit of solidarity and sharing among all countries, among all peoples, among all men and women in the world. Challenges and profound changes will come about as a result of this crisis. Civil authorities need to exercise their responsibility beyond the self-centeredness of their own personal, group, and national interests. They need to provide for the common good, wisely and responsibly, according to the values of freedom and justice.

from:
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-04/parolin-secretary-vatican-international-solidarity-coronavirus.html

COVID-19: The Pope’s closeness to those who are suffering

In his daily homilies at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis continues to show how the Church is close to those suffering from the coronavirus pandemic.

Every morning, in the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis dedicates his Mass to particular groups of people who are suffering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

For the homeless

Most recently, on Tuesday, he prayed “for those who are homeless”:

“At this moment in which everyone is supposed to be at home, may society, men and women, realize this reality and help them, and that the Church might welcome them.”

For those who fear

On Monday 30 March, the Pope’s intention was “for the many people who are not succeeding in coping and remain in fear because of the pandemic”:

“May the Lord help them to have the strength to cope for the good of  society and the entire community.”

On Thursday March 26, the Pope had already turned his attention to the fear that often accompanies suffering:

“The fear of the elderly who are alone in nursing homes, or hospitals, or in their own homes, and don’t know what will happen. The fear of those who don’t have regular jobs and are thinking about how to feed their children. They foresee they may go hungry. The fear of many civil servants. At this moment they’re working to keep society functioning and they might get sick. There’s also the fear – the fears – of each one of us. Each one knows what their own fears are. We pray to the Lord that He might help us to trust, and to tolerate and conquer these fears.”

For those who weep

On Sunday 29 March, Pope Francis began the liturgy saying he was thinking “of the many people who are weeping, people who are isolated, in quarantine, the elderly; people who are alone, in hospital, parents who do not foresee receiving their salary and do not know how they will feed their children”…

“Many people are weeping. We too, from our hearts, accompany them. It wouldn’t do us any harm to weep a bit as our Lord wept for all of His people”.

For those who suffer hunger

On Saturday 28 March, the Pope prayed for those suffering from hunger because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re beginning to see people who are hungry because they can’t work. They may not have had a regular job, and from many other circumstances. We’re beginning to see the aftermath that will come later. But it’s beginning now. We pray for the families who are beginning to find themselves in need because of the pandemic”.

For those who pray

During his morning Mass on Friday 27 March, Pope Francis noted that the difficult times we are facing have inspired in many people a more general concern for others: for families that don’t have enough to get by, for the elderly who are alone, for the sick in hospitals. They are praying for others, “that help might somehow arrive”.

“This is a good sign, and we thank the Lord, who is arousing these sentiments in the hearts of the faithful”.

For those in difficulty

The Pope is also aware of the suffering of those families facing financial difficulties. On Monday 23 March, he prayed especially for them:

“Let us pray today for those persons who are beginning to experience economic problems because of the pandemic, because they cannot work… All of this affects the family. We pray for those people who have this problem.”

For medical personnel

The Pope has expressed his admiration for medical personnel and those who risk their lives caring for coronavirus patients. Before Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday, 24 March, he said:

“I received the news that in these days, a number of doctors and priests have died, I don’t know if there were a few nurses. They were infected…because they were serving the sick. Let’s pray for them, for their families. I thank God for the example of heroism they give us in caring for the sick.”

Urbi et orbi prayer

Before imparting his Urb et orbi blessing in St Peter’s Square on Friday 27 March, Pope Francis prayed that we might “hand over our fears” to the Lord, so that “He can conquer them”:

“Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.”

from:
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/pope-francis-coronavirus-suffering-intentions.html