TRUE human fraternity is as important as vaccines in bringing the pandemic to an end, Pope Francis has said.
Speaking to the diplomats stationed at the Vatican during his annual New Year address, the Pope said that their very gathering — socially distanced because of coronavirus — was a “sign of hope and mutual support to which the family of nations should aspire”.
Despite the severity of the pandemic, however, the greatest crisis that the world faced at present was “the crisis of human relationships, dealing with the very conception of the human person and his or her transcendent dignity”, the Pope said.
“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.
“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.”
All human beings were an end in themselves, not to be valued only for their usefulness, he said. “If we deprive the weakest among us of the right to life, how can we effectively guarantee respect for every other right?”
In this regard, vaccines must be distributed fairly around the world, going not only to the richest nations but to those most in need, the Pope said.
The pandemic had also exposed the fragility of the earth: it was important to remember that the ecological and climate crisis was more deep-rooted and enduring than even Covid-19.
Pope Francis also hoped that the forthcoming UN climate conference COP26, which will be hosted by the British government in Glasgow in November, would lead to significant measures to address climate change.
Covid had also exposed fault lines in the global economy, which was still too reliant on the exploitation of natural resources and people. Social isolation, corruption, cybercrime, and other injustices were on the rise, he warned.
He concluded his address by lamenting the recent military coup in Myanmar (News, 5 February) and called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians detained by the army.
“The democratic process calls for pursuing the path of inclusive, peaceful, constructive, and respectful dialogue among all the components of civil society in every city and nation,” he said.
Read more on the story from Paul Vallely