Pope Francis Urges Families to Rediscover Affection During Coronavirus Crisis

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ROME — Pope Francis has urged people not to “waste” the opportunities for growth presented by this period of trial, recommending families to rediscover the affection that binds them together.

“During these difficult days we can find small, concrete gestures expressing closeness and concreteness towards the people closest to us, a caress for our grandparents, a kiss for our children, for the people we love,” the pope said during an interview published Wednesday in La Repubblica. “These are important, decisive gestures. If we live these days like this, they won’t be wasted.”

The pontiff suggested that the period of isolation that many are experiencing because of the coronavirus can serve to bring people closer together, replacing “virtual communication” with the real thing.

“In their homes, families often eat together in great silence, but not as a result of listening to each other, but because the parents watch television while they eat, and children are on their mobile phones,” Francis said. “They look like monks, all isolated from each other. Here there is no communication, whereas listening to each other is important because that’s how we can understand the needs, efforts, desires of the other.

“This language made of concrete gestures must be safeguarded. In my opinion, the pain of these days should open us up to this concreteness,” he added.

The pope also revealed what he prayed for when earlier this week he traveled across Rome to the churches of Santa Maria Maggiore and San Marcello al Corso.

“I asked the Lord to stop the epidemic: Lord, stop it with your hand. That’s what I prayed for,” he said.

The key to living these days well, Francis said, is to “understand that in small things lies our treasure.”

“These gestures of tenderness, affection, compassion, are minimal and tend to be lost in the anonymity of everyday life, but they are nonetheless decisive, important,” he said. “For example, a hot meal, a caress, a hug, a phone call… They are familiar gestures of attention to the details of everyday life that make life meaningful and that create communion and communication among us.”

“We must rediscover the concreteness of little things, small gestures of attention we can offer those close to us, our family, our friends,” he said.

The pope also had words of encouragement for nonbelievers, insisting that they can find hope in the love of those around them, even if they do not believe in God.

“They are all God’s children and are looked upon by Him,” Francis said. “Even those who have not yet met God, those who do not have the gift of faith, can find their way through this, in the good things they believe in: they can find strength in love for their children, for their family, for their brothers and sisters.”

“One can say: ‘I cannot pray because I do not believe.’ But at the same time, he can believe in the love of the people around him, and thus find hope,” he said.

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