ROME — Pope Francis has called on Christians to receive a vaccination against the coronavirus as an “act of love” and a means or promoting the common good.
The arrival of coronavirus vaccines is a “message of hope for a brighter future,” the pope asserted in a Spanish-language video message released Wednesday.
“Thanks to God and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19,” he said. “They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together.”
The Vatican’s official position is that vaccination against the coronavirus should not be mandatory but must be “voluntary,” but this has not kept the pope and a number of bishops from pushing for people to get the jab.
“Being vaccinated with vaccines authorised by the competent authorities is an act of love,” the pontiff continued in his message. “And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love. Love for oneself, love for one’s family and friends, love for all people.”
“Love is also social and political, there is social love and political love; it is universal, always overflowing with small gestures of personal charity capable of transforming and improving societies,” he added. “Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable.”
Francis ended his address by encouraging the faithful to take advantage of available vaccines as a “gesture of love.”
“I pray to God that everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love; no matter how small, love is always great,” he said. “Contribute with these small gestures for a better future.”
The U.S. bishops have been divided in their teaching on conscientious objection from the vaccines.
Pope Francis called Saturday for universal access to coronavirus vaccines and “the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights.” https://t.co/xIv2FI2THu
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The Colorado bishops, for example, expressed satisfaction that the Denver vaccine mandate included “accommodation for sincerely held religious beliefs,” insisting that this is “appropriate under the laws protecting freedom of religion.”
“We always remain vigilant when any bureaucracy seeks to impose uniform and sweeping requirements on a group of people in areas of personal conscience,” the bishops stated. “Throughout history, human rights violations and a loss of respect for each person’s God-given dignity often begin with government mandates that fail to respect the freedom of conscience.”
“In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are convicted that the government should not impose medical interventions on an individual or group of persons,” they added. “We urge respect for each person’s convictions and personal choices.”
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, on the other hand, issued a terse memorandum on August 16 recommending “that all members of the Catholic community who can receive a COVID-19 vaccine should do so.”
“The Archdiocese is not providing individuals with religious exemption letters to avoid vaccination against COVID-19,” is said.
Similarly, the Archdiocese of New York issued its own statement on July 30 directing priests of the archdiocese to refrain from issuing or assisting Catholics in obtaining a religious exemption to a vaccine mandate.
The memo said that “there is no basis for a priest to issue a religious exemption to the vaccine” and that priests “should not be active participants” in assisting Catholics in obtaining a religious exemption from coronavirus vaccine mandates.