Pope Francis on COVID-19 vaccines: ‘Even in the College of Cardinals there are some deniers’

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Pope Francis speaks during an in-flight press conference from Slovakia, Sept. 15, 2021 / Vatican Media.

Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Discussing COVID-19 vaccines during an in-flight press conference on Wednesday, Pope Francis said that “even in the College of Cardinals there are some deniers.”

The pope was responding to a question posed by a journalist at the end of his four-day visit to Slovakia and Hungary on Sept. 15.

The reporter noted that the initial requirement that only fully vaccinated people could take part in papal visit events caused controversy in Slovakia.

He recalled that the pope had described receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as an “act of love” and asked how it was possible for Christians with contrasting views to be united on the issue.

The pope said: “Humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines. As children, we got them for measles, for other things, for polio. All the children were vaccinated and no one said anything.”

“Then this [opposition] happened. This was perhaps due to the virulence, the uncertainty not only about the pandemic, but also about the different vaccines, and also the reputation of some vaccines which are nothing more than distilled water. This created fear in people. Then others who say that it is a danger because with the vaccine you are infected. So many arguments that have created this division.”

He continued: “Even in the College of Cardinals there are some deniers and one of these, poor guy, is hospitalized with the virus.”

The pope may have been referring to Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was placed on a ventilator in August after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The 73-year-old American cardinal is not the only cardinal to have contracted COVID-19.

Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso and Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, both tested positive and recovered from COVID-19 in March 2020.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, was hospitalized with the virus in November 2020. Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg tested positive in January, as did Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga in February.

After he was taken off the ventilator and moved from the ICU to a hospital room, Cardinal Burke gave thanks that God had brought him to a “point of healing and recovery.”

Known for his outspoken defense of traditional Catholicism, Burke is the former leader of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Diocese of La Crosse in his home state of Wisconsin.

He served as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from 2008 to 2014. Pope Francis appointed him as a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in 2017.

LifeSiteNews reported in May 2020 that Burke affirmed in an online talk that it is “never morally justified to develop a vaccine through the use of cell lines of aborted fetuses.”

It added that the cardinal said that vaccination should not be imposed on citizens “in a totalitarian manner” and spoke of the possibility of microchips being planted under people’s skin, permitting them to be “controlled by the state regarding health and about other matters.”

Pope Francis, who received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, in January and February, has repeatedly encouraged Catholics to be vaccinated and has promoted the fair distribution of vaccines throughout the world.

He said in a public service announcement produced in collaboration with the Ad Council in August that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is “an act of love.”

“I pray to God that each one of us can make his or her own small gesture of love, no matter how small, love is always grand,” the pope said in the PSA, published Aug. 17.

The COVID-19 vaccine has been a controversial subject in Slovakia, where as of Sept. 15, only half of the country is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, well below the 71% of adults fully vaccinated in the European Union overall.

A Slovak Academy of Sciences poll in July found that 36% of Slovakians said they did not want to receive the COVID vaccine, up from 30.9% in May. The same month, hundreds of people gathered outside Slovakia’s parliament in protest of possible new vaccine rules.

In July, Slovakia’s health minister and the Catholic bishops’ conference announced that only those who had been fully vaccinated would be allowed to attend events during Pope Francis’ Sept. 12-15 visit to the country.

But in early September, authorities eased this rule to also allow those with a recent negative test result or recovery from COVID-19 within the past 180 days to attend if they registered in advance.

Local media reports suggested that registration for the papal events had been at just 13% of their capacity, with 57,000 people having registered to see the pope as of Sept. 2, in a country of 5.5 million people, 62% of whom are Catholics.

“We knew there would be some problems with this,” Fr. Martin Kramara, the spokesman for the Slovakian bishops’ conference, told CNA in August, in reference to the obligation to be vaccinated.

At the time the decision was taken, the alternative given by the authorities was to have a maximum 1,000 people in attendance at each event, in spaces that could theoretically hold up to 50,000 people, Kramara said. He added that the bishops were tentatively expecting as many as 100,000 people at the pope’s closing Mass at the national shrine in Šaštín.

Attendance at some events in Slovakia was lower than projected, with an estimated 25,000 young people present at an event in Košice’s Lokomotiva Stadium, half the stadium’s capacity, and about 60,000 at the national shrine in Šaštín, which could accommodate 100,000 attendees as originally tentatively projected.

Concluding his response to the question on vaccine skepticism, the pope said: “I do not know how to explain it well. Some say it comes from the diversity of where the vaccines come from, which are not sufficiently tested and they are afraid. We must clarify and speak with serenity about this. In the Vatican, everyone is vaccinated except a small group which they are studying how to help.”

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  1. Does Pope Francis know that the Covid 19 vaccines are not the same as the traditional vaccines? And that they are under emergency approval, interim approval, etc.? And that thousands of peeple have died horrible deaths after receiving the vaccines. And that young people who are being manipulated into taking these vaccines have no idea what the long term effects will be? And why should a healthy person be asked to take something they don’t need? The words of the pope on these vaccines have caused much suffering to people who have questions and who oppose vaccines developed from babies who have been murdered by abortion. Dare I say, his words lack love and are a scandal?

    • Francis has never demonstrated a perceptive capacity to comprehend the nature of or meaning of an unimpeachable moral principle, whether expressed in terms of secular legal statute, or more importantly, given the position he holds, in terms of Catholic moral doctrine. He is stubbornly ignorant of morality and how it works in the real world.

      Elitists, such as Francis, shut their ears, eyes, and minds to any criticism, premised on moral principles, of their world view that might counter the presuppositions of whatever progressive social policy they advocate because of a psychological defense mechanism where they sense that such criticism would impeach their self-esteem, a system dependent on viewing themselves as a superior sort of human being merely for holding viewpoints that are assumed to be the proper viewpoints that caring people are supposed to claim for themselves, even if these views are amoral and coldblooded and ultimately counterproductive to the welfare of the downtrodden for whom they claim to be the object of their concern. The only thing that really matters to them is pretending to be a caring human being, especially when it costs them nothing at all other than exercising rhetorical preening.

      Francis can give lip service to opposing abortion, but the thought of what it means to really take a moral stand to resist the principalities of power that create the regimes of its existence in the world would never even occur to him nor would it occur to him that it could motivate those he regards as his inferior. He can’t even comprehend Catholics who desire liturgy that worships God rather than pop culture fads.

  2. One must always follow their (properly formed) conscience. It’s no longer an “act of love” when one is forced to take a shot against their will with the threat of losing their job. It then becomes an “act of control” by those requiring it for access to basic human rights, which then become privileges.

  3. Who cares what the Pope thinks about non-essentials? BTW, this include worship, according to the majority of the bishops in the US. So what the pope has to say about ANYTHING is non-essential.

  4. This Pope’s remarks descend lower and lower every day. His remarks sound not a lot different from those of Joe Biden and other politicians who are simply creating scapegoats as a target of the mob’s anger. Why does this man harbor such hatred for his own sheep– and his brother bishops?

  5. At this point in time the continued astonishing tirades emanating from our current Holy Father will do do no more to persuade the faithful to take the vaccine than his comments in favor of climate change hysteria and unfettered illegal immigration.

  6. I suggest the Holy Father stop trying to conform Christianity, his Papacy and my faith, to these evil vaccines and the programs coming with them and after them. And vice versa, he should stop conforming these evil vaccines to Christianity.

    I insist. If he won’t do it and binds himself to a flawed witness, it is his own doing. He recently referenced Paul opposing Peter over the circumcision issue but he can not see that a “vaccine party” can bewitch him and he didn’t make the connection with the circumcision example, here, during the in-flight discourse, either, once again. It’s as if Paul may be cited as a diversion, maybe even as a permit; and this makes me wary. Would he use me the same way!

    In addition, the vaccines and the policies going with them are meant to simultaneously dog everybody and everything. The Holy Father must show his astuteness. If the situation contains lessons on the limits of his apostolate, he must learn them.

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