A cardinal and a theologian have blamed the coronavirus on “rich countries’ aimless experiments”, on the one hand, and the “retaliation of Gaia”, on the other.

– Cardinal Ranjith of Sri Lanka demands international investigation into cause of COVID-19, “a very serious crime for mankind”

“We know that in several areas of the world researchers of all types for various reasons are engaging in research to destroy human life and nature. Some of these viruses are the products of aimless experiments”, Sri Lankan cardinal Malcolm Ranjith denounced in a televised Mass March 15, in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“This kind of research is done not by people in poor countries but in laboratories in rich countries.

“Producing such things is a very serious crime for mankind”, deplored the Archbishop of Colombo, just as the Sri Lankan Church decided to cancel public Masses in the country in response to a spike in infections, which this Wednesday hit 51.

“I ask the Lord to reveal who made these poisonous seeds”, the cardinal, 72 and archbishop of Sri Lanka’s commerical capital and largest city since 2009, implored.

“The United Nations or international organizations must find out who is behind these incidents and punish them. Such research should be banned”, Ranjith insisted, while at the same time calling on political parties in Sri Lanka to come together in the coronavirus fight, and on citizens not to hoard essentials.

– Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff: “Not by accident did the virus break out where there is more pollution”

For his part, well-known Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff wrote on the website A Terra é redonda March 14 that he believes that “current diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, Zika virus, SARS, Ebola, measles, the current coronavirus and the generalised degradation in human relationships, marked by profound inequality / social injustice [sic] and the lack of a minimum of solidarity, are a reprisal of Gaia for the offences that we continuously inflict on her”.

By “Gaia”, Boff – a former priest who left the ministry after repeated run-ins with the Vatican, but whose theology has now come back into favour under Pope Francis – was referring to the thesis of chemist James Lovelock that the Earth functions as a synergistic, self-regulating system.

“It is not by accident that the virus broke out where there is more pollution”, Boff, 81, wrote.

Though the theologian admitted he would not go as far as Lovelock and say, as per the title of the chemist’s 2006 book, that coronavirus is the “revenge of Gaia” – since Gaia, “as a Great Mother, does not take revenge” – Boff did affirm that Mother Earth “gives us strong signs that she is sick (typhoons, melting polar ice caps, droughts and floods, etc.) and, at the extreme – due to the fact that we do not learn the lesson – serves us a reprisal like the diseases mentioned”.

“It is a reaction to violent human action”, Boff wrote of the recent epidemics.

But even though the coronavirus is, in the theologian’s opinion, the reprisal of Mother Earth, “that doesn’t mean that governments around the world, resigned, should stop fighting [it], stop protecting the population and stop urgently seeking a vaccine to face up to it, despite its constant mutations”.

In addition to an “economic-financial disaster”, the coronavirus has the potential to bring about an immense “human tragedy, with an incalculable number of victims”, Boff warned.

“But the Earth will not be content with these little gifts” associated with the doubling-down on the coronavirus’ impact on humans, the theologian cautioned.

Earth “begs for a different attitude towards her: of respect for her rhythms and limits, of care for her sustainability and of feeling more than the sons and daughters of Mother Earth, but as the Earth itself that feels, thinks, loves, venerates and cares”.

“Just as we care for each other, we must care for her”, Boff cautioned.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.