Pontiff urges countries to cooperate more in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in his Christmas message
Pope Francis said in his Christmas message Friday that politicians and business leaders should not allow market forces and patent laws to take precedence over making COVID-19 vaccines available to all. The pontiff also condemned nationalism and the “virus of radical individualism.”
Under quarantine, Francis delivered his traditional Urbi et Orbi (“To City and World”) message from the pulpit at the Vatican, rather than from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica before the tens of thousands who normally gather in St. Peter’s Square.
The theme of the pandemic and its socio-economic consequences dominated the message, in which Francis called for global unity and assistance to countries suffering from conflict and humanitarian crises.
“At this historic moment, marked by environmental crisis and serious economic and social imbalances exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to recognize each other as brothers and sisters,” he said.
Stressing that health care is a worldwide problem, the pontiff, cautioned against so-called “vaccine nationalism,” which UN officials fear will exacerbate the pandemic if poor countries are the last to receive the vaccine.
“I ask all heads of state, companies, and international organizations to promote cooperation, not a competition, to find a solution for all – vaccines for all – especially for the most vulnerable and needy in all regions of the world,” the Roman Catholic Primate said.
“The most vulnerable and needy should be the first priority,” he said in the Hall of Blessings, where about 50 Vatican employees sat around the perimeter by the walls wearing masks.
“We cannot put ourselves above others by putting market forces and patent laws above the laws of love and the health of humanity,” Francis said. – We cannot allow closed nationalism to prevent us from living as the true human family that we are.”
Pope Francis also seemed to be referring in his criticism to people who refuse to wear masks because it allegedly violates their freedom. Examples of this attitude are evident in various countries, including the United States.
“And we also cannot allow the virus of radical individualism to triumph over us and make us indifferent to the suffering of other brothers and sisters,” he said.
Italy will have strict quarantine restrictions and curfews for most of the Christmas and New Year holidays. The restrictions mean that people will not be able to visit St. Peter’s Square or the basilica during papal events, which have been moved indoors.
Christmas is above all a time to help others because Jesus himself was born an outcast, Francis said Thursday night during Christmas Mass, which began two hours early so that the few participants in the service could go home before curfew (until 10 p.m.).
“May the child of Bethlehem then help us to be generous, benevolent and helpful, especially toward those who are vulnerable, sick, unemployed or struggling because of the economic consequences of the pandemic, as well as toward women who have suffered domestic violence in these months of isolation,” Pope Francis said in his message Friday.
He then called for reconciliation in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Sudan, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Iraq, which he plans to visit in early March.
The pontiff also asked for comfort for those suffering from humanitarian crises or natural disasters in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, the Philippines, and Vietnam.