Pope Francis called for solidarity in a world gripped by the coronavirus, praised health care workers and chastised governments and individuals who selfishly thought only of themselves during a global pandemic, writing in a New York Times op-ed published on Thanksgiving.
Francis remembered the nurses who helped save his life from severe pneumonia at the age of 21 and praised both science and the “goodness and wisdom of others.”
“In lockdown I’ve often gone in prayer to those who sought all means to save the lives of others,” Francis wrote. “So many of the nurses, doctors and caregivers paid that price of love, together with priests and religious and ordinary people whose vocations were service. We return their love by grieving for them and honoring them.”
Most governments across the globe acknowledged the hard work of health care workers and put the well-being of citizens first and foremost, Francis said. But he had less charitable words for “governments that shrugged off the painful evidence of mounting deaths, with inevitable, grievous consequences,” and for individuals who “protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions.”
The pope did not name names, though his words could easily be seen as a criticism of countries such as the U.S. “It is all too easy for some to take an idea — in this case, for example, personal freedom — and turn it into an ideology, creating a prism through which they judge everything,” Francis stressed.
“The coronavirus crisis may seem special because it affects most of humankind,” Francis added. “But it is special only in how visible it is. There are a thousand other crises that are just as dire, but are just far enough from some of us that we can act as if they don’t exist.”
Chief among the “unseen viruses” and “hidden pandemics of this world” are climate change, the plight of refugees and world hunger — all tragedies that affect the entirety of humanity, Francis wrote.
The pope urged individuals and governments alike to reconsider their priorities as the coronavirus pandemic continued. He stressed that the political and economic systems that proved ineffective in a COVID-19 world need to be changed.
“We need economies that give to all access to the fruits of creation, to the basic needs of life: to land, lodging and labor,” Francis wrote. “We need a politics that can integrate and dialogue with the poor, the excluded and the vulnerable, that gives people a say in the decisions that affect their lives. We need to slow down, take stock and design better ways of living together on this Earth.”
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.