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Gerard O’ConnellApril 17, 2020
In an editorial published April 17, 2020, by the Spanish magazine Vida Nueva, Pope Francis said Christians are called to be joyful witnesses to Christ's victory over death during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS file photo/Paul Haring) In an editorial published April 17, 2020, by the Spanish magazine Vida Nueva, Pope Francis said Christians are called to be joyful witnesses to Christ's victory over death during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS file photo/Paul Haring) 

Pope Francis has presented “a plan for the rising up again” of humanity in the midst of a global crisis that has brought the world’s peoples and the economy to their knees. He shared it in an exclusive meditation for Vida Nueva, the Spanish religious weekly, in which he reflects on the coronavirus pandemic in the light of the resurrection of Jesus.

“Un plan para resucitar” (“A plan for rising up again”) is the title he chose for the reflection. In it he does not conceal his concern over the crisis caused by a pandemic that has infected more than 2 million people, caused the deaths of over 140,000 and wreaked havoc on the world’s economy. In Spain alone 190,000 people have been infected and 19,600 have died.

Pope Francis says our experience today mirrors in many ways that of the disciples of Jesus after his death and burial in the tomb. Like them, “we live surrounded by an atmosphere of pain and uncertainty,” and we ask, “Who will roll away the stone [from the tomb?]”

But like the women waiting at the tomb, Pope Francis said, we ask: “Who will roll away the stone?”

He likens the stone that sealed the tomb of Jesus to the tombstones of the pandemic that “threatens to bury all hope” for the elderly living in total isolation, for families who lack food and for those on the front lines who are “exhausted and overwhelmed.”

He recalls, however, that the women who followed Jesus did not allow themselves to be paralyzed by anxiety and suffering. “They found ways to overcome every obstacle,” simply “by being and accompanying.”

He notes that many today are following suit, including “doctors, nurses, people stocking the supermarket shelves, cleaners, caretakers, people who transport goods, public security officials, volunteers, priests, women religious, grandparents, teachers, and so many others.”

But like the women, the pope said, they all ask: “Who will roll away the stone?”

Francis says many are participating in the passion of Christ today, either personally or at the side of others, and he reminds everyone: “We are not alone, the Lord goes before us on our journey, and removes the stones that paralyze us.” This is the hope that no one can take from us, the pope says.

Pope Francis says the disciples of Jesus discovered something that we are now learning: “No one is saved alone.”

Pope Francis describes the present moment as a “propitious time” to be open to the Spirit, who can “inspire us with a new imagination of what is possible.”

Indeed, today, “frontiers fall, walls crumble, and all the discourse of the fundamentalists [integristas] dissolve in the face of an imperceptible presence which shows the fragility of which we are made.” But, he says, “Easter calls us and invites us to remember this other discreet and respectful, generous and reconciling presence, so as to start that new life which is given to us.”

This presence “is the breath of the Spirit that opens horizons, sparks creativity and renews brotherhood and makes us say, ‘I’m present’ in the face of the enormous and urgent task that awaits us.”

He describes the present moment as a “propitious time” to be open to the Spirit, who can “inspire us with a new imagination of what is possible.” He recalls that the Spirit does not allow itself “to be closed in or manipulated by fixed or outmoded methods or decadent structures” but rather moves us to “make new things.”

At this moment in history, Francis says, “We have recognized the importance of joining the entire human family in the search for a sustainable and integral development.” We have also understood that “for better or worse all our actions affect others because everything is connected in our common home, and if the health authorities order that we remain confined in our home, it is the people who make this possible, aware of their co-responsibility in stopping the pandemic.”

He insists that “an emergency like Covid-19 is overcome in the first place by the antibodies of solidarity.” This lesson “breaks all the fatalism in which we have immersed ourselves and allows us to return to be the architects and protagonists of a common history,” he says, and it enables us “to respond together to the many evils that are affecting so many of our brothers and sisters across the globe.”

“We cannot allow ourselves to write the present and future history by turning our backs on the suffering of so many people,” he says. Quoting the book of Genesis, he writes that God himself is asking us, “Where is your brother?” He expressed the hope that our response would be marked by “hope, faith and charity.”

Indeed, he says, “if we act as one people, also in the face of the other epidemics that are hitting us, then we can have a real impact.”

In reference to these other epidemics, Francis raises a series of questions: “Are we capable of acting responsibly in the face of the hunger, suffered by so many in a world where there is in fact food for all? Will we continue looking the other way in the face of wars fueled by [the quest for] domination and power? Are we willing to change our style of life that submerges so many in poverty, by promoting and encouraging a more austere and human lifestyle that makes possible a more equitable sharing of resources? Will we adopt, as an international community, the necessary measures to stop the devastation of the environment, or will we continue to deny the evidence [of this devastation]? Will the globalization of indifference continue threatening and tempting our journey?”

Pope Francis expresses the hope that, in the light of the resurrection, “we would encounter the necessary antibodies of justice, charity and solidarity” to change the world. He calls for the building of “a civilization of love,” which he described as “a civilization of hope,” contrary to one marked by “anguish and fear, sadness and discouragement, passivity and tiredness.”

This civilization “has to be built daily” and requires “the commitment of everyone.”

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