We’re living in unusual times. This is a very telling moment which tests the very essence of our humanity.
In his Holy Week message, Pope Francis says: “If you allow me, I would like to have a conversation with you for a few moments, in this time of difficulty and of suffering. I can imagine you in your families, living an unusual life to avoid contagion. I am thinking of the liveliness of children and young people, who cannot go out, attend school, live their lives. I have in my heart all the families, especially those who have a loved one who is sick or who have unfortunately experienced mourning due to the coronavirus or other causes. These days I often think about people who are alone, and for whom it is more difficult to face these moments. Above all I think of the elderly, who are very dear to me. I cannot forget those who are sick with coronavirus, people who are in hospital. I am aware of the generosity of those who put themselves at risk for the treatment of this pandemic or to guarantee the essential services to society. So many heroes, every day, at every hour! I also remember how many are in financial straits and are worried about work and the future. A thought also goes out to prison inmates, whose pain is compounded by fear of the epidemic, for themselves and their loved ones; I think of the homeless, who do not have a home to protect them. It is a difficult time for everyone. For many, very difficult. The Pope knows this and, with these words, he wants to tell everyone of his closeness and affection. Let us try, if we can, to make the best use of this time: let us be generous; let us help those in need in our neighbourhood; let us look out for the loneliest people, perhaps by telephone or social networks; let us pray to the Lord for those who are in difficulty in Italy and in the world. Even if we are isolated, thought and spirit can go far with the creativity of love. This is what we need today: the creativity of love. This is what is needed today: the creativity of love.”
This is a very difficult time for everyone. These are difficult times which require of us loving one another and extraordinary efforts to contain the coronavirus. But in doing so as a nation, as humanity, we must pay attention to the poorest of the poor. All of humanity must be served, this must be the principle underlining our common efforts, struggle, against the pandemic. While we cannot tell the kind of world we’ll have in the aftermath of COVID-19, what this disease has done is putting a spotlight on economic inequalities in our country and a fragile social safety net that leaves many of our vulnerable fellow citizens to bear the economic and social brunt of this pandemic.
As Dr Fred M’membe has noted: “our political leaders will need to consider these underlying inequalities in responding urgently to the mounting challenges of this pandemic. While the coronavirus affects people regardless of wealth, the poor will be most affected due to longstanding vulnerabilities. Although the coronavirus started with those who are able to travel abroad, as time goes on, the poor – as maids, cleaners, drivers, and so on and so forth, to the well-to-do – are more likely to be exposed to the virus, have higher mortality rates, and suffer economically. In times of economic crisis, these vulnerabilities will be more pronounced for the poor. The measures taken to curb the spread of the virus – necessary as they are – are very crippling to the poor. We need a response to the coronavirus that prevents people from having to choose between not having a meal and risking their and their families’ health. The poor need help. They are hit first and hardest by the economic consequences of fighting this virus.”