ROME — Pope Francis said Monday that the only thing worse than the coronavirus pandemic is failing to learn the lessons it teaches.
“This scourge has tested everyone and everything,” the pope told a delegation from the ecumenical patriarchate of the Eastern Orthodox Church. “Only one thing is more serious than this crisis, and that is the risk that we will squander it, and not learn the lesson it teaches.”
“It is a lesson in humility, showing us that it is not possible to live healthy lives in an unhealthy world, or to go on as we were, without recognizing what went wrong,” the pontiff asserted.
In his address in the Vatican, the pope went on to suggest that the world’s illness at the core of the crisis was the pursuit of wealth and indifference to the poor and the environment.
“Even now, the great desire to return to normality can mask the senseless notion that we can go back to relying on false securities, habits and projects that aim exclusively at pursuing wealth and personal interests, while failing to respond to global injustice, the cry of the poor and the precarious health of our planet,” he said.
Francis declared that there is a message for Christians as well, an invitation to return to what is most essential.
“What does all this have to say to us as Christians?” he asked. “We too are called to reflect seriously on whether we want to go back to doing what we did before, as if nothing happened, or instead to take up the challenge of this crisis.”
The present crisis “calls us to distinguish, discern and sift, in everything we do, between what is enduring and what is passing,” he said.
What endures forever is love, he added, “because, while everything else passes away, ‘love never ends.’”
For a Christian, “love is concrete, modelled on that of Jesus,” he said. “It is the love of the seed that gives life by falling to the earth and dying; the seed that gives life by being broken.”
The pope also proposed that the pandemic offers Christians an opportunity to reevaluate their efforts to pursue the unity of all followers of Christ.
For us Christians on the path to full communion, taking the current crisis seriously “means asking ourselves how we wish to move forward,” he said. “Every crisis represents a crossroads: we can withdraw into ourselves, seeking our own security and expediency, or we can be open to others, which entails risks but also God’s promised fruits of grace.”
“Dear brothers, has not the time come for giving further impetus to our efforts, with the help of the Spirit, to break down ancient prejudices and definitively overcome harmful rivalries?” he asked.
Francis went on to propose that the crisis could signal “a new phase of relations between our Churches, marked by walking more closely together, by desiring to take real steps forward, by becoming more willing to be truly responsible for one another.”
“If we are docile to love, to the Holy Spirit who is the creative love of God and who brings harmony to diversity, he will open the way to a renewed fraternity,” he stated.