Pope Francis warns of ‘a viral genocide’ if governments put the economy before people amid coronavirus pandemic 

A view of La Boqueria market closed down in downtown Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Pope Francis has warned of the risk of a “viral genocide” in places where governments put the economy before people during the coronavirus pandemic.

He issued this warning in a handwritten letter on March 28 to Judge Roberto Andrés Gallardo, the Argentinean-born president of the Pan-American Committee of Men and Women Judges for Social Rights. America has received the original letter, which was reported in the Argentine daily, La Nación, by Elisabetta Piqué, with the judge’s permission. (Full disclosure: Ms. Piqué is the wife of America’s Vatican correspondent.) Francis has met with Mr. Gallardo several times, including at the summit of judges at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in June 2019. The committee was born from this and earlier meetings.

Responding to a letter from the judge on March 26, Francis wrote, “We are all concerned at the increase, in geometric progression, of the pandemic.” He said he was “edified by the reaction of so many persons, doctors, nurses, volunteers, religious [women and men], priests, who risk their lives to heal and defend healthy people from the contagion.” 

“The governments that face the crisis in this way show the priority of their decisions: the people first.... It would be sad if they opted for the opposite, which would lead to the death of very many people.”

He noted that “some governments have taken exemplary measures, with priorities that are well targeted at defending the population” but acknowledged that such measures “annoy those who find themselves obliged to comply.” He insisted, however, that these measures “are always for the common good and, by and large, the majority of the people accept them and respond with a positive attitude.”

In the letter, Francis stated, “The governments that face the crisis in this way show the priority of their decisions: the people first.” He emphasized that “this is important because we know that to defend the people supposes an economic setback.” But, he said, “it would be sad if they opted for the opposite, which would lead to the death of very many people, something like a viral genocide (genocidio virosico).” 

He told the judge that he had held a meeting with the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development on March 27 on “the present situation and on what comes after” and that “it is important to prepare ourselves for what follows.” He noted that “there are already some consequences that must be faced: hunger, above all for persons without a permanent job (odd jobs, etc.), violence, the appearance of usurers (who are the true plague of a social future, dehumanized delinquents).”

Referring to “the economic future,” Pope Francis told the judge that he considered “the vision” of the economist Mariana Mazzucato, “interesting.” Ms. Mazzucato, an economist with dual Italian-U.S. citizenship who teaches at the University College London, is a critic of the current global financial system, which, she argues, encourages the extraction of value instead of its creation. He mentioned her 2018 book, The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy, which calls for a stronger role for the public sector in the economy, and said, “I believe [her vision] can help to think about the future.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Pope Francis.]

The latest from america

Pope Francis greets Bishop Cornelius Sim, apostolic vicar of Brunei, during his "ad limina" visit to the Vatican in this Feb. 8, 2018, file photo. Bishop Sim was among 13 new cardinals named by Pope Francis Oct. 25. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
The primacy of the church at the peripheries has been a key theme in Francis’ selection of cardinals. He has used the cardinalate to reach communities in countries that are experiencing poverty, conflict and political tension.
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 28, 2020
President Donald Trump talks to reporters, as first lady Melania Trump listens, before boarding Air Force One for a day of campaign rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska on Tuesday, Oct. 27. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Catholic voters in Arizona said they are supporting Donald Trump because of abortion, gun owners’ rights and dissatisfaction with Obamacare.
Kevin Christopher RoblesOctober 28, 2020
Why might you find yourself praying to your deceased grandmother rather than to Christ? Because in your story she is another Christ, not an alternative Christ.
Terrance KleinOctober 28, 2020