In light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and social and environmental crises worldwide, Pope Francis announced he would begin a new series of general audience talks aimed at helping to build “the future that we need.” The coronavirus pandemic has infected almost 19 million people, causing the deaths of over 705,000 in some 213 countries and territories across the globe.
“In the next few weeks, I invite you to tackle together the pressing questions that the pandemic has brought to the fore, social ills above all. And we will do it in the light of the Gospel, of the theological virtues and of the principles of the church’s social doctrine,” he said on Aug. 5 during his weekly general audience.
“We will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious illnesses,” the pope said.
The audience, livestreamed from the library of the Apostolic Palace, was the pope’s first general audience talk after the appointments were suspended for July, the month the pope’s schedule is lightened for a summer break.
Pope Francis: “In the next few weeks, I invite you to tackle together the pressing questions that the pandemic has brought to the fore, social ills above all.”
He began his talk noting that the pandemic “continues to cause deep wounds, exposing our vulnerability. On every continent there are many who have died, many are ill. Many people and many families are living a time of uncertainty because of socio-economic problems which especially affect the poorest.”
In this context, Pope Francis said, “we must keep our gaze firmly fixed on Jesus” and “with this faith embrace the hope of the kingdom of God that Jesus himself brings us. A kingdom of healing and of salvation that is already present in our midst (see Lk 10:11). A kingdom of justice and of peace that is manifested through works of charity, which in their turn increase hope and strengthen faith.”
Within the Christian tradition, he said, “faith, hope and charity are much more than feelings or attitudes. They are virtues infused in us through the grace of the Holy Spirit, gifts that heal us and make us healers, gifts that open us to new horizons, even while we are navigating the difficult waters of our time.”
He told Christians worldwide that “renewed contact with the Gospel of faith, of hope and of love invites us to assume a creative and renewed spirit,” and “in this way, we will be able to transform the roots of our physical, spiritual and social infirmities and the destructive practices that separate us from each other, threatening the human family and our planet.”
He recalled that Jesus’ ministry “offers many examples of healing” as we see in the Gospel accounts where he cures those affected by fever, leprosy, paralysis and restores sight, speech and hearing.
“Jesus heals not only the physical evil—which is true, physical evil—but he heals the entire person,” the pope said. “In that way, he restores the person back to the community, too, healed; he liberates the person from isolation because he has healed him or her.”
Indeed, “Jesus heals everyone, he forgives sins.... It is a physical and spiritual healing, all together, the fruit of personal and social contact.”
Pope Francis said that “as disciples of the Lord Jesus, who is the physician of our souls and bodies, we are called to continue his work of healing and salvation…in a physical, social and spiritual sense.”
He added that “although the church administers Christ’s healing grace through the sacraments and provides health care services in the remotest corners of the planet, she is not an expert in the prevention or the cure of the pandemic. She helps with the sick, but she is not an expert. Neither does she give specific socio-political pointers. This is the job of political and social leaders.”
Nevertheless, he said, “over the centuries, and by the light of the Gospel, the church has developed several social principles that are fundamental.”
They are to be found in The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, he said, “principles that can help us move forward in preparing the future that we need.”
He highlighted the main ones: “the principle of the dignity of the person, the principle of the common good, the principle of the preferential option for the poor, the principle of the universal destination of goods, the principle of the solidarity, of subsidiarity, the principle of the care for our common home.”
Francis said, “These principles help the leaders, those responsible for society, to foster growth and also, as in the case of the pandemic, the healing of the personal and social fabric.” In fact, he said, “all of these principles express in different ways the virtues of faith, hope and love.”
Pope Francis, who was looking well and rested after his stay-at-home vacation in July, said that in the coming weeks “it is my desire that everyone reflect and work together, as followers of Jesus who heals, to construct a better world, full of hope for future generations.”