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“Don’t take refuge in escapism”: Pope Francis discusses COVID-19 and life under lockdown

“I’m living this as a time of great uncertainty,” the Holy Father said in an interview with Austen Ivereigh.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in the chapel of his Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, April 8, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

In an interview with papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, published today at Commonweal, Pope Francis gave some details about his life under the COVID-19 lockdown, and addressed some of the spiritual concerns prompted by the pandemic and the international response to it.

“I’m living this as a time of great uncertainty,” the Holy Father said. About life within the Vatican under lockdown, he said:

We are sticking to the measures ordered by the health authorities. Here in the Santa Marta residence we now have two shifts for meals, which helps a lot to alleviate the impact. Everyone works in his office or from his room, using technology. Everyone is working; there are no idlers here.

How am I living this spiritually? I’m praying more, because I feel I should. And I think of people. That’s what concerns me: people. Thinking of people anoints me, it does me good, it takes me out of my self-preoccupation. Of course I have my areas of selfishness. On Tuesdays, my confessor comes, and I take care of things there. …

My major concern—at least what comes through my prayer—is how to accompany and be closer to the people of God. Hence the livestreaming of the 7 a.m. Mass [I celebrate each morning] which many people follow and appreciate, as well as the addresses I’ve given, and the March 27 event in St. Peter’s Square. Hence, too, the step-up in activities of the office of papal charities, attending to the sick and hungry.

Asked what he saw as the mission of the Church right now, Pope Francis responded, “The people of God need their pastor to be close to them, not to overprotect himself. The people of God need their pastors to be self-sacrificing.”

While noting, “It’s not easy to be confined to your house,” Francis also encouraged the faithful, “Don’t run away, don’t take refuge in escapism.”

The Holy Father said his preeminent concern is for the poor, and for the elderly who are already particularly vulnerable to the “throwaway culture” he has described many times in the past. “This is the moment to see the poor. Jesus says we will have the poor with us always, and it’s true. They are a reality we cannot deny. But the poor are hidden, because poverty is bashful…. They are there but we don’t see them: they have become part of the landscape; they are things.”

Francis offered words of encouragement and hope, recognizing “the saints who live next door” and who continue to keep society functioning by offering service—“doctors, volunteers, religious sisters, priests, shop workers.” He referenced the Aeneid, in which Aeneas, after the destruction of Troy, has two choices: “to remain there to weep and end his life, or to follow what was in his heart, to go up to the mountain and leave the war behind.”

“This is what we all have to do now, today,” Francis said. “To take with us the roots of our traditions, and make for the mountain.”

The full interview can be read here.

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  1. Medics, pharmacists, grocery shop keepers, volunteers, police, and spiritual companions are serving humanity with dedication and courage. May they and their loved ones be blessed with strength and good health.

  2. “I am living this as a time of great uncertainty.”

    Such a statement is not unexpected from the distorted psychology of “the contemporary Jesuit,” which takes pride in its intellectual assent to uncertainty. Hence, the praise in print for the “passionate uncertainty” projected by the new Jesuit psychology.

    The appeal about “the poor” seems a worn out marketing theme. I recall the words of Cardinal Becciu, who reminded the Pontiff to “Remember the Poor,” when Francis was first “walked out” to the balcony in St. Peter’s Square in April 2013. Yet the same Cardinal Becciu was in the news for taking $200 Million from “Peter’s Pence” (with approval of Cardinal Parolin) and “investing” in the failed London real estate gambit.

    In the arts world, artists who make money off projects for “the poor” are called “poverty pimps.”

    The poor are deserving of prayer and charity and attention. Unfortunately, the voices from the well-heeled clergy and journalists of Rome don’t ring very true when “telegraphing” their concern for “the poor.”

  3. Thankful for the Pope’s prayers for the poor and the elderly both who have protections in civilized states during this pandemic. Greatly disappointed though that he did not offer prayers for the unborn who have no protections; disappointed that he did not lambast abortion kept up as an essential service in many nations even amongst all this dying. He should have shamed the nations that carry on with abortion at this time and have reminded them that such death breeds more suffering and death.

  4. Over in the Register, Ed Pentin has an interview with Cardinal Sarah. That will probably be worth a read.

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