Pope Francis called on the people to seek a “cure” to social injustice, which he said is a bigger virus than COVID-19.
In his address during a general audience on Aug.19, the pontiff said the coronavirus pandemic “exposed the plight of the poor and the great inequality” in the world.
He said that while the virus does not distinguish between people, it has found in its “devastating path, great inequalities and discrimination.”
“[I]t has exacerbated them,” said the pope.
He stressed the need for a “dual response for healing” that will cure the new coronavirus disease and prevailing social injustices, inequalities, and lack of protection of the most vulnerable.
“In this dual response for healing there is a choice that, according to the Gospel, cannot be lacking — the preferential option for the poor,” said Pope Francis.
He said the preferential option for the poor “is not a political option; nor is it an ideological option, a party option.”
The pontiff said the pandemic gives humanity “an opportunity to build something different.”
He urged the people to “nurture an economy of the integral development of the poor,” which does not only provide relief assistance and band-aid solutions.
“I do not wish to condemn assistance. Aid is important… but we must go beyond this, to resolve the problems that lead us to provide aid,” he said.
The pope said the real economy must “bring benefits to the common people” and must not inflict damage to our common home.
He noted that everyone is “all worried” about the social consequences of the pandemic.
“Many people want to return to normality and resume economic activities. Certainly, but this ‘normality’ should not include social injustices and the degradation of the environment,” he said.
Pope Francis said the preferential option for the poor, an ethical social need, urges nations and governments to put the people, especially the poorest, at the center of the economy.
“It also encourages us to plan the treatment of viruses by prioritizing those who are most in need,” said the pontiff.
The pope said a COVID-19 vaccine, once developed, has to be made available to all, especially to those who have less in life.
“It would be sad if, for the vaccine for COVID-19, priority were to be given to the richest,” he said
“It would be sad if this vaccine were to become the property of this nation or another, rather than universal and for all,” added the pope.
He criticized governments that extend economic assistance to rescue industries “that do not contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, the promotion of the least, the common good and the care of creation.”
He said those four must be the fundamental criteria of every government in “choosing which industries should be helped.”
“If the virus were to intensify again in a world that is unjust to the poor and vulnerable, then we must change this world,” said the pope.
The pontiff said there are only two ways on how the human family can emerge from the crisis — “Either we come out of it better, or we come out of it worse.”
“We must come out of it better, to counter social injustice and environmental damage,” he said.