Pope Francis has written an open letter, published in Padua’s daily newspaper, expressing his prayer and closeness to all those suffering as a result of Coronavirus.
The Italian government has asked the whole of the country to stay home unless for work or emergencies, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Authorities closed St. Peter’s Square to the public. Public Masses, including funerals, have been suspended until early April.
“The suffering and death that, as in other parts of Italy, you are experiencing because of the Coronavirus is for me a reason for prayer and human closeness,” writes Pope Francis. “It is also the reason for Christian hope,” he continues, because “even in these moments, God is speaking to us.”
The Holy Father acknowledges that the situation is dangerous, but says it is also an “opportunity to see what men and women of good will are capable of,” and he praises the heroic efforts of the medical and paramedical personnel “first and foremost.”
Good will, “combined with a strong sense of responsibility and cooperation with the appropriate authorities, becomes an added value that the world sorely needs,” he writes.
Noting how this year, the northern Italian city of Padua was named “European Capital of Volunteering,” the pope calls this “a wonderful opportunity for your city to tell the world about your DNA”, which includes generous use of time and sharing of talents.
Pope Francis invites the people of Italy’s Veneto Region to be proud of their history and to take responsibility “for all the good sown by those who have gone before you.”
In his letter, Pope Francis references the motto Padua has chosen as the guiding thread for the year of volunteering: “Stitching Italy together.” The verb “to stitch,” he writes, recalls sewing and mending: “operations that are most necessary after a tear, a wound.”
Today we are tempted to throw away rather than to mend, writes Pope Francis: “It is a fate we reserve not only for objects, but also for people, especially the most helpless.” No one, he says, “should be refused a loving look of attention and a gesture of goodness.”
Pope Francis concludes by explaining how he chose to place his message in the pages of Padua’s Il Mattino newspaper because he wants it to be “a caress” to those who are suffering at this time. He extends this symbolic caress “to all the other cities that share this moment and, at the same time, are giving testimony of good will to the world.”
His last word and blessing goes to all those who have lost a loved one, to the elderly, the sick and those who are imprisoned: anyone who, because of the Covid-19 emergency, is unable to receive even the simple comfort of a visit.