Highlights of the Pope’s Special Urbi et Orbi Blessing

Embed from Getty Images
via the Vatican:

For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other….

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities….

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters….

Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”…

You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives….

In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons….

Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them….

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side….

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity.


Coronavirus, Solidarity, and the Common Good

Check out these recent articles on the coronavirus, solidarity, and the common good:

Spare a Moment for Sorrow by John Dickerson: “Ideally a public figure would use his platform, as heroic leaders have in the past, to set this tone. In the absence of that, perhaps we can all use our platforms, whether they be Twitter or the family text chain, to say what I have tried to say here: that we feel your loss and sorrow, even if words are too clumsy. And when words fail altogether, a moment of silence can say You’re not alone, even in a moment of deep loneliness. The test of a time like this is that it either drives us toward our common humanity, or it drives us apart. Let it be the former.”

Michael Sandel in ‘Finding the ‘Common Good’ in a Pandemic’: “Our lack of preparedness for the pandemic reveals the lack of solidarity in our social and political life, especially in our inadequate system of public health and lack of universal access to health care and paid sick leave. This makes the sudden, ritualistic invocation of the slogan “we’re all in this together” ring hollow.”

Screw This Virus! by David Brooks: “It will require a tenacious solidarity from all of us to endure the months ahead. We’ll be stir-crazy, bored, desperate for normal human contact. But we’ll have to stay home for the common good.”

Take time during coronavirus pandemic to reflect upon Christ’s command, Love Thy Neighbor by Elise Italiano Ureneck: “Throughout history, believers have found bold, creative and prophetic ways to demonstrate solidarity and communion with those on the physical or existential margins of society. This is such a moment.”

‘Give me liberty, or give me (grandma’s) death!’ by Michael Sean Winters: “After years of being told that all social justice issues must come second because “you cannot enjoy any other right unless you first enjoy the right-to-life,” now we are told that this is all sentimentalism.”

What do we learn from this place where we don’t want to be? by John Gehring: “I want to better appreciate how extraordinary, even sacred, the ordinary can be. Dinner with a friend, hugging my kids, the collective buzz of live music, or even the small pleasure of sipping coffee in a café surrounded by the familiarity of strangers are not things to take for granted when you’re reminded that life is fragile and fleeting. Gratitude is a grace.”

Catholic social teaching panel says coronavirus pandemic ‘a moral test’ by Christopher White: “While much is uncertain during this global health crisis, the belief that Catholic social thought requires valuing human life and dignity over economic concerns was the widespread consensus among Catholic leaders during an online forum convened by Georgetown University.”

The pandemic is about to devastate the developing world by Brian Klaas: “In the coming months, the coronavirus death tolls will be horrific. Yet, astonishing as it may seem to all of us living in lockdown, we are the lucky ones. In rich countries, it is likely that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, will die in the coming months. But if past pandemics are any guide, those numbers are likely to be a small fraction of the body count in the poorest parts of the globe. Every public health problem that we face will be far worse in the developing world.”


Pope Warns that Prioritizing the Economy Over People May Lead to ‘Viral Genocide’

via CNS:

Countries fighting the coronavirus pandemic could face deadly consequences if they focus on protecting their economies more than their own people, Pope Francis said.

In a handwritten letter sent March 28 to Argentine Judge Roberto Andres Gallardo, president of the Pan-American Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine, the pope said that some governments that have imposed lockdown measures “show the priority of their decisions: people first.”

“This is important because we all know that defending the people implies an economic setback,” he said in the letter, which was published March 29 by the Argentine newspaper La Nacion.

“It would be sad if they opted for the opposite, which would lead to the death of many people, something like a viral genocide,” the pope wrote.



It’s Not Demonic to Close Churches to Protect Human Lives and the Vulnerable

In First Things, RR Reno writes, “There is a demonic side to the sentimentalism of saving lives at any cost.” Is this sentimentalism? Or is it the care for the human person that Jesus showed by healing the sick? Jesus identifies his mission as the promotion of life in abundance (John 10:10). The Catechism states that our vocation is life in the Holy Spirit, expressed by divine charity and human solidarity (CCC 1699). The Holy Spirit will not abandon us even while churches remain closed.

His colleague Matthew Schmitz writes, “Unless religious leaders reopen the churches, they will appear to value earthly above eternal life.” Why this dualism between earthly and eternal life? Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), so care for our health is a spiritual duty. While it is true that bodies do not have an absolute value (CCC, 2289) this immediately follows: “Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good” (2288).

Church closings ensure public health as a safeguard for the most vulnerable. If the quarantine were lifted and the coronavirus spread, we don’t have the capacity to care for the sick and the dying. Such a disregard for the sanctity of life and the common good would be sinful.

Schmitz says that since breweries and supermarkets remain open, churches should be too. But churches are not places for consumption; parishes are not places where sacraments get dispensed. We go to church to gather and that is the exact risk of spreading the coronavirus. One can pick up beer or buy groceries without interacting with anyone else, but liturgy literally means “the work of the people.” It is a corporate event: we pray together, sing together; by standing and sitting together, we demonstrate our communal worship together. We don’t go to church to “get” the Eucharist; we go to church to be reminded who we are before our God, what God has done for us, and to petition God’s presence and power. Augustine tells us to “become what you receive” in the Eucharist: churches form us as the Body of Christ.

Do I miss Eucharist? Absolutely. And this experience puts me in touch with millions of Catholics all over the world who cannot count on receiving the Eucharist on a daily or weekly or monthly basis because they cannot get to a church or the Sacrament cannot get to them.

I am consoled by the Catechism, as it reminds us the Mass is a cosmic event, taking place across space and time. It unites us with the whole church—past, present & future—so that we participate in every celebration of thanksgiving, past, present, and future (nos. 1367-1372). The Catechism also reminds us that our conscience—the Vicar of Christ—must be ordered to the good of all (2039). We are responsible for each other (2259) and for establishing peace and justice, including the commutative justice of rightly relating to each other (2304).

Healthcare experts tell us that quarantine is necessary for the preservation of life and that this time is the most essential for protecting the vulnerable and preventing the overloading of our healthcare system. It would be sinful and barbaric to reject this counsel. God knows what’s in our hearts and the impact of our decisions on others, especially the least among us (with whom Jesus identifies in Mt 25:31-46). God is not offended by us being unable to celebrate Eucharist, especially when we do this for the good of the People of God. Because love of God is also love of neighbor (John 15:12). God holds us in this difficult time, sustaining us by the grace that is always and everywhere present, reflected in the imago dei of each and the community of persons that reflects our Triune God (CCC 1702). We can and should be witnesses of the essential nature of being church, even while the buildings are closed. According to Irenaeus of Lyons, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.”

Stay home. Save lives.



Italian Priest Who Gave Respirator to Younger Patient Dies of Coronavirus

via Fr. James Martin:

Fr. Giuseppe Berardelli, a 72-year-old priest in Bergamo, Italy, who gave a respirator (that his parishioners had purchased for him) to a younger patient (whom he did not know), has died from coronavirus.
“Greater love has no person than the one who lays down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13)
He is a “Martyr of Charity,” a saint like St. Maximilian Kolbe, who in Auschwitz volunteered to take the place of a condemned man with a family, and was killed.
Don Giuseppe Berardelli, patron of those who suffer from coronavirus and all who care for them, pray for us!