Pope Francis ‘Pained’ by Wealthy People Fleeing Lockdowns

Pope Francis looks on during a limited public audience at the San Damaso courtyard in The Vatican on September 30, 2020 during the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty

ROME — Pope Francis said Sunday he was “pained” to read of wealthy people taking flights to escape new coronavirus lockdown measures at home.

Following his weekly Angelus message, the pope spoke of the temptation to focus solely on “one’s own interests” or to live hedonistically by seeking only to “satisfy one’s own pleasure,” exemplified by those escaping coronavirus lockdowns.

“I read something in the newspaper that really saddened me,” the pontiff said. “In one country — I don’t remember which — more than 40 planes took off in a single afternoon to escape the lockdown and go on vacation.”

“But those people, who are good people, didn’t they think about those who stayed at home, about the economic problems of so many people devastated by the lockdowns, about the sick?” he asked. “Just take a vacation and seek your own pleasure. This pained me so much.”

The pope may have been referring to recent news stories of wealthy Brits “fleeing the UK in private jets to avoid new lockdowns” while Londoners are trapped in their city.

Business Insider reported private aviation firms were reporting an increase in bookings out of London as the UK government imposed new lockdowns.

“As Londoners flocked to train stations over the weekend in a last-ditch effort to escape new lockdown restrictions, British high society went to London’s private jet terminals to catch charter flights out of the country,” the paper reported.

A “Tier 4 lockdown” imposed on parts of the UK — including London — caused a “mass exodus” from the city before it became illegal to leave, the Northern Echo reported. While most turned to cars, trains, commercial airliners, and busses to flee the city, “those fortunate enough to do so turned to private aviation firms, who’ve say they’ve seen an increase in UK bookings from the weekend,” Business Insider noted.

“Enquiries reached a peak yesterday, with many looking to travel to second homes for Christmas or bring forward pre-booked flights with us to warmer destinations such as Dubai or the Maldives,” said Mark Briffa, the CEO of private charter brokerage Air Partner.

In his address Sunday, Pope Francis urged greater solidarity in the face of difficulties.

While extending his “best wishes for the year that has just begun,” Francis said that as Christians, “we shy away from the fatalistic or magical mentality: we know that things will get better to the extent that, with God’s help, we work together for the common good, putting the weakest and most disadvantaged at the center.”

“We don’t know what 2021 has in store for us,” he said, “but what each of us and all of us together can do is to commit ourselves a little more to taking care of each other and of creation, our common home.”

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