Vatican COVID-19 Commission Examines Pastoral and Social Challenges of Pandemic

Pope Francis asks commission to focus on four social issue areas: security, economics, ecology and health.

When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, Pope Francis quickly responded by launching a task force in the Vatican to examine the emerging pastoral and social challenges. The Vatican COVID-19 Commission is tasked with analyzing and reflecting on our new socioeconomic and cultural situation and proposing approaches to bring about a just and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

Our goal must be “finding a cure for this small but terrible virus,” Pope Francis says, and also curing “a larger virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalization and lack of protection for the weakest.”

The Vatican COVID-19 Commission focuses on four social issue areas: security, economics, ecology and health. The working groups within the commission gather information from global experts on these issues and interpret it in light of Catholic social teaching, putting their findings into helpful two-page briefs.

Based on the work of the commission, Pope Francis has urged global cooperation on several key issues, including a global ceasefire, easing of sanctions and debt relief for impoverished countries during the pandemic, the need for sustainable economic investment, and equitable distribution of any future COVID-19 vaccines.

According to Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and president of the COVID-19 Commission, there needs to be a globalization of solidarity. “There can be no healing without peace,” said Cardinal Turkson, announcing the commission’s call for countries to spend more on health care and less on weapons.

The pope’s call for a global ceasefire in April contributed to the U.N. Security Council’s passing a resolution for a ceasefire in July, after months of negotiations. The pope’s call for debt relief reached the ears of leaders of the G20 nations, including French President Emmanuel Macron, with whom he spoke about the issue in April. The global campaign for debt relief has gained momentum, resulting so far in the world’s major economies allowing a debt moratorium for some countries and the International Monetary Fund providing debt cancellation for 25 of the world’s poorest countries.

In August, Pope Francis spoke about the need for a forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine to be equitably distributed, with the most vulnerable around the world prioritized first. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said he “couldn’t agree more” with Pope Francis’ remarks.

In a series of talks delivered at his regular Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis has given what he called a “catechesis” on “healing the world” after the pandemic. He says we can begin this mission by  “starting from the love of God, placing the peripheries at the center and those who are least in first place … Starting from this love anchored in hope and founded in faith, a healthier world will be possible.”

Kathleen Kollman Birch is communications manager at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

Faith in action:

• Visit the Vatican COVID-19 Commission website to learn about the social challenges facing the world in recovering from the pandemic in light of Catholic social teaching. http://bit.ly/VatCommCOVID

• Pope Francis expands on the themes of his “healing the world” catechesis in his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, which was released on October 4. Explore and share our six-page study guide of the encyclical: http://bit.ly/FTstudyguideMOGC

• Ask Congress to provide emergency international aid for countries struggling to recover from the pandemic: http://bit.ly/MOGCaidCOVID

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Phone (202) 832-1780, visit www.maryknollogc.org or email ogc@maryknollogc.org.

Overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis leads the Angelus and prays for all those who are suffering, including victims of violence and COVID-19. (CNS/Vatican Media)

 

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About the author

Kathleen Kollman Birch

Kathleen Kollman Birch is communications manager for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.