Pope Francis has authored a lengthy Opinion column in the New York Times, in which he offers reflections about life after the pandemic.
The article is adapted from the pope’s latest book-interview with Austen Ivereigh, called Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, which will be released December 1 by Simon and Schuster.
The Holy Father begins by saying that with so many calamities in the world, a person can become paralyzed with the seemingly countless situations of need. He says that his trick is to focus on specific situations, on people with names and faces. Thus, instead of being overwhelmed, one feels invited to “ponder and respond with hope.”
Pope Francis shares his own story of severe illness when he was a young man and had to have part of one lung removed. He suggests that he understands something of what Covid patients must experience on ventilators. And he recalls the heroic nurses who saved his life.
He says that the doctors and nurses, as well as the priests and other public servants, who have risked their lives in the Covid pandemic have elicited a reaction in us: “Whether or not they were conscious of it, their choice testified to a belief: that it is better to live a shorter life serving others than a longer one resisting that call.”
Considering how governments have responded to the pandemic, the Holy Father warned that ideas can easily be turned into ideologies. He said that some have taken the idea of personal freedom, for example, and make it a “prism” with which they look at all of life.
As well, the pope observes that the coronavirus is hardly the only “pandemic” affecting the world. He says there are many, but they are simply less visible, and perhaps we are at a greater distance from them.
He laments the “pandemics” of hunger, violence, climate change, the arms race and others.
It is hard to build a culture of encounter, in which we meet as people with a shared dignity, within a throwaway culture that regards the well-being of the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled and the unborn as peripheral to our own well-being.
Citing Friedrich Hölderlin’s “Hyperion,” Francis says that the genius of humanity is our ability to respond, and to find in the danger itself the opportunity to grow.
The pope says that to emerge from the pandemic better, instead of worse, we have to recognize that we are bound together, that we depend on each other, that “no one is saved alone.”
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Pope thanks nurses: You are among the ‘saints next door’