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.”


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.”


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

US development fund helping religious cope during the pandemic

Funds granted by the US government’s foreign aid agency support 2 Rome-based Catholic organizations that assist the poor amid the Covid-19 pandemic. They are the Community of Saint Egidio and the International Union of Superiors General, whose Executive Secretary speaks of the reality faced by so many religious during the crisis.

By Linda Bordoni 

Nuns and religious sisters across the world work on the frontlines of the Covid pandemic in many capacities and have been deeply impacted by the crisis.

They care for people in hospitals, in homes, in parishes, in communities, in shelters and wherever they are called. Their communities have been hard-hit with Covid-19 infections spreading through religious houses and monasteries. Many elderly or frail nuns and sisters have died.

Thanks to the allocation of funds amounting to $900,000 by USAID, the U.S. government agency for international development, much needed financial support has reached people – including religious – struggling to cope.

A fruitful collaboration

Here in Rome, a collaborative effort on the part of the US Embassy to the Holy See, the Community of Saint Egidio and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) has resulted in the distribution and utilization of these funds.

Speaking at a video press conference on Thursday, Sr Patricia Murray, Executive Secretary of the UISG thanked the US Ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, for having facilitated the collaboration, and shed light on the reality of so many nuns and religious during this very difficult time:
Listen to Sr Patricia Murray, Executive Secretary of UISG

“In the past when we read about pandemics,” Sr Pat recalled, “especially for example during the time of the Spanish flu, the sisters were very visible and very present on the streets, in the homes and the hospitals. Very early on during this pandemic, we received a letter at UISG from a medical doctor here in Italy who said: ‘Where are the sisters? We need your help!’”

The impact of the pandemic on religious communities

The sisters, she continued are still there: helping in parishes and shelters and many other places of need. However, another reality, she added, is that many of the sisters are today among those most vulnerable to the virus because of their age and frail health. 

“During this time of covid, I’m sure you’re all aware of the many deaths that occurred of elderly sisters and priests,” she said.

This is a time to reach out and support those thousands of sisters here in Italy, Sr Pat said, who have been teachers and doctors and nurses and social workers and catechists and pastoral ministers… not only here in Italy, but as missionaries in many different parts of the world.

Today, “many of them are in care homes in their congregations,” she said, “praying for the needs of the world and offering their suffering for those who are fearful or anxious at this time.”

Sr Pat revealed that in her role as Executive Secretary of the UISG she has been very touched by the witness of the sisters “whose lives have been utterly changed and who live with the same fears and anxieties as others.”

Drawing on their faith and praying for the world 

“They draw on their faith in Christ and they also rely on the goodness of others to help them in this difficult time,” she said.

She noted that the nuns and sisters are certainly not living in some protected situation, but are fully immersed in the current reality.

She said many elderly sisters have lived in isolation during this time, “even within their religious communities, often separated from those who are in active ministry, and who work outside the community and must self-isolate when they return home.”

“This period of isolation has cut them off from members of their parish, their families and their friends, and they look to find new ways to connect like everybody else,” she said.

In many religious communities, she continued, it is a small number of sisters who are well enough, who look after the others.

“I’ve heard of some communities where everyone has tested positive for covid and then it falls to a small group of sisters who are well to care for the sick among them and to do the cooking and cleaning and all the household tasks associated with large institutions,” she said.

The situation, she continued, has been so difficult that some communities have brought in sisters from other parts of the world to care for the elderly and frail members.

Their gratitude, she affirmed, is enormous and they pray for the protection not only of the workers in their facilities but also for those, throughout Italy, who are on the frontlines.

“One sister said to me: I pray to the Lord that he would take me rather than take someone with a young family,” she said.

How the Grant is helping

Sr Pat said the USAID Grant support has allowed Italian Communities of Sisters to purchase the cleaning materials and the protective materials that they require.

It has also given them the capacity to help over 42 communities and different entities, providing safety and protection and care. 

The majority of those who are being cared for, she revealed, are elderly sisters, “but they also include women who have been trafficked into Italy, women who have come as migrants and refugees with their young children and are looking for support and help to build a new life.”

Sr Pat concluded quoting the words of Pope Francis from his encyclical Fratelli tutti where he prayed to the Lord of Creation:

“May our hearts be open to all the peoples and nations of the earth. May we recognize the goodness and beauty that you have sown in each of us, and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects, and shared dreams,”

“This collaborative initiative between Saint Egidio and the International Union of Superiors General supported by the US government,” she said, “is a shining example of goodness that can build a common project that recognises the dignity of each person. 


Pope at Audience: Prayer is rudder to guide course of our lives

At the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis says Jesus shows us that we must pray early, often, and in silence, and urges everyone to pray for those who are ill with Covid-19 and the medical personnel working to treat them.

By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis began his Wednesday General Audience noting that the event must “unfortunately” be held once again in the library of the Apostolic Palace without the presence of the faithful.

He called it a reminder of the importance of respecting the directives laid out by political and health authorities.

He also invited everyone to pray for those who are ill with Covid-19 and for the medical personnel working hard to treat them.

“Let us offer the Lord this distance between us, for the good of all,” he said. “And let us think often about the ill, those who are already considered left behind. Let us think about doctors, nurses, volunteers, and the many people who are working with the sick right now, who risk their lives but do it out of love, their vocation, and love for their neighbor. Let us pray for them.”

Mysterious reality

The Pope then continued his catechesis on Jesus’ example of prayer.

“Jesus’ prayer is a mysterious reality, of which we intuit only something, but which allows us to interpret His entire mission from the right perspective.”

Jesus, added the Pope, immersed Himself often in intimacy with God the Father, “in the Love that every soul thirsts for.”

Rudder that guides His course

Pope Francis focused his reflections on a passage in the Gospel of Mark (1:32,34-38), in which Jesus heals many sick people late one evening before rising early to pray in a deserted place alone.

After the disciples find Jesus to say the whole village of Capernaum is looking for Him, Jesus declares that He must preach to the other towns as well.

“Prayer is the rudder that guides Jesus’ course.”

This, said the Pope, means that Jesus lets God guide His path, and not the desires and adulation of others.

He went on to draw four lessons from Jesus’ witness of prayer.

Dawning of the day

Jesus, said Pope Francis, teaches us above all that prayer should be “the first desire of the day.”

“A day lived without prayer risks transforming into a bothersome or tedious experience: all that happens to us could turn into a badly endured and blind fate.”

However, Jesus demonstrates the need to be obedient and to listen, since prayer is first of all “an encounter with God.”

“The problems of everyday life, then, do not become obstacles, but appeals from God Himself to listen  to and encounter those who are in front of us.”


Secondly, said the Pope, Jesus teaches us that prayer is an art that must be practiced “with insistence.”

Though anyone can pray sporadically, Jesus reminds us that prayer requires discipline, practice, and constant effort.

“Consistent prayer produces a progressive transformation, makes us strong in times of tribulation, gives us the grace to be supported by Him who loves us and always protects us.”

Solitary and silent

Thirdly, Jesus’ prayer is always solitary.

“Those who pray do not escape from the world, but prefer deserted places.”

In the silence of prayer, said Pope Francis, our innermost desires and truths emerge into the light.

But most importantly, he added, silence is where God speaks. “Every person needs a space for him- or herself, to be able to cultivate the inner life, where actions find meaning.”

To and fro in God

Finally, Pope Francis said, prayer as taught by Jesus is the place where we find that “everything comes from God and returns to Him.”

He noted that prayer helps us to rediscover “the right dimension in our relationship with God, our Father, and with all creation.”

Peace and joy, concluded the Pope, is what we will find if we follow Jesus’ example of prayer.


Bangladesh Catholic hospitals treat Covid-19 patients with Pope’s ventilators

Three ventilators donated by Pope Francis are being used in Catholic hospitals in Dhaka, Dinajpur and Jessore.

The Catholic Church of Bangladesh has expressed its gratitude to Pope Francis for donating three ventilators in the country’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Donated through the Apostolic Nuncio, a ventilator was sent to Dhaka and the others were sent to two Catholic hospitals in Dinajpur and Jessore.

The Holy See’s Press Office had announced on June 26 that the Pope had donated 35 ventilators to 13 countries with fragile healthcare systems, as a gesture of his closeness and support in their fight against the Covid-19 virus. 

Among the beneficiaries Haiti, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Venezuela, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.  

Pope’s gift a blessing

Father Kamal Corraya, Executive Director of the St. John Vianney Hospital in Dhaka, which received one of the ventilators, said the Pope’s gift for their intensive care unit has been a blessing. “It will be very useful for assisting coronavirus patients,” he told the Vatican’s Fides news agency. 

Their hospital’s medical team, Fr. Corraya said, keeps in touch with Covid-19 positive patients at home and advises, motivates and provides them with necessary instructions, which is of great help especially to the poorest.  The hospital provides medical care to anyone who asks.

Dr Edward Pallab Rozario, a Catholic doctor at the hospital, also expressed his gratitude to the Pope.  “The gift of the Holy See is a blessing and is really precious for the small Christian community in Bangladesh,” he told Fides. 

In agreement with the Health Department of the Government of Bangladesh, St. John Vianney Hospital collects samples of swab tests and sends them for analysis to the state Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research. Over the past few months, the Catholic hospital has been regularly carrying out hundreds of swab tests.  It is opening a new operating room soon. 

Hospital’s history

The hospital has been active since November 2019, when Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka, inaugurated it in the presence of the civil and religious authorities. It is located in one of the busiest areas of the city and near the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, which has about 15,000 faithful, including local Catholics and migrants.

On April 29, the facility was temporarily closed down and the entire staff of over 60 employees was placed in self-quarantine after 22 medical staff tested positive for Covid-19. After their recovery, the hospital resumed its activity fully.

In Bangladesh, the Catholic Church manages 12 hospitals, 78 dispensaries, 6 leper hospitals, 15 homes for the elderly and the disabled. (Source: Fides)


Indonesia’s Catholic Church holds Virtual Youth Day

The Commission for Youth of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI), organized the 2-day Virtual Youth Day (VYD), streamed live on YouTube over the weekend.

By Robin Gomes

For the first time, Indonesia’s young Catholics held the Indonesian Youth Day online because of the Covid-19 restrictions.  “Rooted, blooming and bearing fruit” was the theme of the August 28 to 30 Virtual Youth Day (VYD) that was streamed live on YouTube.  Organizers said over 5,000 youth from all over the vast archipelago participated in the event. 

Bishop Pius Riana Prapdi of Ketapang, chairman of the Commission for Youth of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI), kicked off the 2-day event on Friday with a concelebrated Mass in the Cathedral of Ketapang, in West Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo.

Rooted, blooming, bearing fruit in Christ

“God always finds ways to love young people. Young people’s imagination and energy to be creative never end, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” Bishop Prapdi said in his homily. He commended their spirit to serve the Church and the nation and the desire to share their joy and inspiration with others.

Commenting on the theme (Colossians 2:7), he said that young people were called to make life choices wisely by being rooted, blooming and bearing fruit in Christ.

Reaching out via social media

“To be rooted in Christ means that our life is sourced from Christ. To bloom in Christ means that we recognize our growth potential and challenges. To bear fruit in Christ means that we have grateful hearts which are capable of loving others,” he said.

Despite the challenges regarding jobs, studies, communities and health conditions amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Bishop Prapdi encouraged the young people to continue being “rooted in Christ, to grow in faith and to bear fruit through services by using social media platforms”.

VYD’s second day programme included traditional songs, dances and sharing sessions.

The idea of a Virtual Youth Day was decided in late July because of the Covid-19 restrictions,  Father Antonius Haryanto, executive secretary of the Commission for Youth, told UCA News.

In the lead-up to the August VYD, he said they held live-streamed talk shows, in which priests, psychologists and young people developed the theme of the event.

“I do hope that young people can become the main actors. Even though their activities are very limited amid the Covid-19 pandemic, they still can become visionary leaders who help the society or make breakthroughs possible,” Father Haryanto said.

Ronald Taemisa, a participant from the Archdiocese of Kupang, regarded the first Virtual Youth Day as “a milestone.” “We live in a modern world. We can positively use social media platforms to show the world that young people in Indonesia can do something useful for others,” he told UCA News.

Indonesia’s Covid-19 burden 

Indonesia is currently grappling with one of the worst surges in Covid-19 cases in South-east Asia.  The 2,858 new infections reported on Sunday were below the previous day’s record of 3,308 but above the past month’s daily average.  Its total number of cases rose to 172,053, with 7,343 deaths. 

The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) reported on Monday that 100 doctors have died so far from COVID-19.


India Christian Churches pray online at Pentecost against pandemic

An ecumenical initiative brought together the faithful of various Christian Churches of India for an online prayer service on Pentecost Sunday, during which they prayed to the Holy Spirit for the nation.

By Robin Gomes

Leaders of Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and evangelical fellowships of India rang bells, sang hymns and prayed together online at noon on Pentecost Sunday, evoking the power of the Holy Spirit on the nation as it struggles against the growing number of Covid-19 infections.  

India added more than 50,000 cases in the past week, totalling more than 191,000 infections with over 5,400 deaths. With daily infections increasing to more than 8,000 and the government relaxing lockdown norms, experts say the contagion could spread further.

“We are united in one accord and united in faith,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), as he urged Christians to pray for the nation.

The United Christian Forum, an ecumenical group, organized the prayer initiative.

Several bishops joined the prayer programme, including Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, the capital of central India’s Madhya Pradesh state.

All the Catholic parishes in Bhopal Archdiocese held prayers at noon as planned, while Archbishop Cornelio also led an online prayer service for Catholics to attend from their homes, said archdiocesan spokesperson Father Maria Stephen.

It was “a prayer of hope at the time everyone in the country is struggling with no immediate respite from the pandemic that continues to spread among the masses,” Archbishop Cornelio told UCA News after the event.

Pastor Vinu Paul, who leads New Frontier Church based in the western state of Maharashtra, said people in his church “prayed together for the healing of our land.”

Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore also exhorted Christians to seek God’s help to save the country from coronavirus.

“When we all pray together, God will send his Holy Spirit and deliver the nation” of 1.3 billion people, the bishop said.

The feast of Pentecost, observed 50 days after Easter, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, on the Virgin Mary and the Apostles, as they gathered in the “upper room” in Jerusalem. The event marks the birth of the Church.

The 25-minute-long prayer service began with the ringing of bells, which organizers said symbolized the message of hope that “must ring out from the church to the nation”.

The ecumenical initiative included prayers for healing and for various sectors of society such as the government, politicians, those in authority, the police, healthcare workers and victims of the pandemic.

Divine Word Father John Paul, one of the organizers and president of Indore-based Christian Media Forum, said they prayed “for all the unsung heroes of our day namely; doctors, nurses, medical professionals, police and other law and order enforcing personals, grocers, truckers, farmers, bank employees, those maintaining supply of electricity, water, and other essential services.”  “All these and others, who are on the front lines, need God’s special protection as they serve us,” the priest added.

The prayer ended with the singing of the national anthem.


Gathered together in prayer with Mary the Mother of Jesus

Thousands of people joined the approximately 130 persons gathered in the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens to recite the Rosary with Pope Francis on the last Saturday of the month of May.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

Pope Francis united with thousands of people throughout the world sought the Blessed Mother’s help to end the coronavirus pandemic. The Pope along with about 130 gathered at the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens. Thousands of others prayed with them as they watched and listened through television, radio and digital platforms. As they prayed, images of numerous Marian shrines throughout the world appeared on a large screen at the Vatican Lourdes Grotto and on the screens of those connected for the event.

The intentions for the Rosary

The first Glorious Mystery was led by a doctor and a nurse in the name of all the medical personnel dedicated on the fronts lines in the hospitals for doctors, nurses and all medical personnel.

The second Glorious Mystery was led by a person who has recovered from the virus and a person who lost a family member to represent those who have been personally affected by the virus for the intention of all military personnel, security forces, fire fighters all volunteers.

The third Glorious Mystery was led by a priest who is a hospital chaplain and a woman religious who is a nurse to represent all of the priests and consecrated persons who are near those who are suffering from illness for the intention of priests and consecrated persons who bring the Sacraments and a word of Christian comfort to the sick. We were reminded that some of their number have lost their lives in serving their communities. 

The fourth Glorious Mystery was led by a pharmacist and a journalist to highlight those who continued to provide their precious service for the benefit of others during the time of pandemic. The intention for this mystery was for the dying, above all those dying alone, for those who have died, and for the families who still mourn their deaths.

Lastly, the fifth Glorious Mystery was led by a member of the Italian Civil Protection service with his own family, to represent all those whose work is directed toward managing this crisis as well as the world of volunteers who never failed to bear witness to charity. The second half was led by a young couple who recently had a baby, a sign of hope and of the victory of life over death. This mystery was prayed for all those who need to have their faith and hope strengthened, for the unemployed, for those who are alone and all the babies who have come into the world.

Other highlights

At the beginning and at the end of the recitation of the Rosary, Pope Francis prayed the prayers he suggested be used to accompany the Rosary throughout the month of May. After extending his apostolic blessing, the Pope said a few spontaneous words acknowleding those connected from the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and other Latin American Shrines: “To all of the shrines in Latin America – Guadalupe and many others – who are connected with us, united in prayer, I greet you in my own mother tongue: thank you for being near. May Our Mother of Guadalup accompany us!”

Approximately 50 shrines were connected throughout the moment of prayer. They included the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, Our Lady of Lourdes in France, the Immaculate Conception in the United States, Walsingham in England, Our Lady of Pompeii, Divine Love and Pietrelcina in Italy,  Our Lady of Lujan in Argentina, Our Lady of Knock in Ireland, Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil, St Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Notre Dame in Canada and the Basilica of the Annunciation in Israel.


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.