Ecotheologian Leonardo Boff has called for a “less perverse and more solidary” society post-COVID, insisting “we cannot allow our collective suffering to have been in vain”.

– “COVID fell like a meteor on the system of capital and neoliberalism. Did the Wall Street slogan ‘greed is good’ help?”

Brazilian former Franciscan priest Boff, one of the world’s foremost exponents of liberation theology, is due to speak the afternoon of this November 20 on the subject “Socio-ecological responsibility: global view, territorial actions” in the “Economy of Francesco” online event convened by the Pope in May 2019 to dream up a new social vision “that can give hope to our future and benefit not only the poorest of the poor, but our entire human family”.

Boff launched the warning on the aftermath of the COVID crisis in a November 16 entry on his blog.

There the ecotheologian noted that the ongoing pandemic is raising a series of uncomfortable questions for all of the world’s inhabitants, including: “What is the meaning of life? Why all this suffering? What does nature want to tell us with this invisible virus that has brought all the military powers to their knees, rendering useless their weapons of mass destruction?”

“COVID-19 fell like a meteor on the system of capital and neoliberalism. Did the Wall Street slogan ‘greed is good’ help? No one eats computers, nor feeds on the algorithms of artificial intelligence”, Boff reflected.

– What saved us from worse COVID fate were “values and attitudes absent in neoliberalism”

In his blog post, Boff outlined the “dogmas of the capitalist and neoliberal faith” also criticised by Pope Francis in his October 3 encyclical Fratelli tutti (168).

In that perverse religion of neoliberalism, “the essentials are profit in the shortest time possible; fierce competition; individual or corporate accumulation; cruel plundering of nature’s resources, leaving externalities to the State; indifference to the rate of social and environmental iniquity [and] the postulation of a minimum State to escape limiting laws and be able to accumulate more freely”, Boff denounced.

The theologian pointed out that “if we had followed these mantras” during the worst of the COVID crisis, “the extermination of human lives would have been incalculable”. “Without public policies, people would be swallowed up by an atrocious fate”, he added more generally.

Though 1.34 million people worldwide have now died from the coronavirus, that figure could have been much worse if governments had not imposed lockdowns and other restrictive measures and ramped up their public health coverage, not to mention all the private shows of help and solidarity.

Boff observed, then, that “what has saved us” from an even worse death toll from COVID have been “those values and attitudes that are absent in the system of capital and neoliberalism” – in short “the realisation that we are not ‘gods’ but totally vulnerable and mortal, exposed to the unpredictable”.

“What counts is not profit but life, not competition but solidarity, not individualism but cooperation among all, not the assault on nature’s goods and services but its care and protection, not a minimum State but a State sufficiently equipped to meet the urgent demands of the population”, the theologian summarised.

– Don’t ignore “counter-attack from Mother Earth”

Boff has often argued that the coronavirus is a kind of warning sign the natural world is giving humanity to stop with its voracious plundering of our Common Home and take the path of solidarity and sustainability instead.

The theologian repeated that thesis in his blog post November 16, and argued that COVID “is a counter-attack by nature or Mother Earth against humanity, with which she wants to give us a severe warning: ‘stop the merciless aggression'”.

But Boff also sounded a more positive note in his article, and said that “nothing is fortuitous in this world”, and as such the pandemic is no exception.

“What we cannot allow is for this collective suffering to be in vain”, the theologian implored.

He urged humanity to regard the pandemic “like a crucible that purifies the gold, that purifies our mind, and puts in check certain habits to be revised and other new ones to be incorporated, especially regarding our relationship with nature and the type of society we want, less perverse and more supportive”.

More on Novena on Leonardo Boff:

Liberation theologian Boff, on “landmark” ‘Fratelli tutti’: “The Pope has done his part. It is up to us not to let the dream stay just a dream”

Ecotheologian Boff alerts: “This pandemic is more than a crisis. It is a call to change our relationship with Mother Earth”

Ecotheologian Boff warns of humanity’s “unsustainable” relationship with planet: “If this perverse logic continues, it will lead to our grave”

Ecotheologian Boff: “Capitalism, the Satan of the Earth, is destroying the planet”


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