In the midst and the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, “serious questions must be asked about the relationship between humans and nature”, a French bishop has warned.

Full text: In times of Pandemic

Reflection offered by Mgr Marc Stenger, Bishop of Troyes, France, and Co-President of Pax Christi International

We see that the pandemic linked to the spread of the Coronavirus is having a strong impact on many aspects of coexistence between humans and, as such, it also concerns Pax Christi and the Church’s Catholic social teachings.

Already many are thinking of the post-pandemic, a time when everything will return to what it was before, where we will enjoy what we have postponed, and this is understandable.

But it is likely that – hopefully – nothing will be the same as before after this harsh experience. We must all reflect on the post-coronavirus period and not just think about returning to our routines and our practices.

The pandemic is not just a health emergency. It affects and disrupts social structures and emphasizes the many weaknesses of our way of life.

The tremendous dedication of health workers cannot hide the fact that we were not ready to face such a heavy storm.

We can measure the shortcomings of our economic system which has been totally based on the pursuit of profit, even disrupting exchanges, whereas at the moment these trades should have been fluid and united.

Just one example: the bottleneck in the production and supply of masks, which China is fortunately compensating for.

We note the soundness of the criticism in Laudato Si’ against a society and a system which give preference to special interests over the common good.

Serious questions must be asked about the relationship between humans and nature.

A form of “naturalism” made us forget that “everything is linked”, that we must not only be concerned with nature but also with humankind, that we will not save one without the other, that it is necessary to save the life of humans and not get lost in practices which do not manifest a responsible look on the value of the human life.

If this crisis does not lead us to an in-depth examination of conscience on the respect of each other, on the implementation of relations at all levels, based not on force but on dialogue and nonviolence, it will not push us to something new.

In this respect we must question ourselves about a globalisation that is beneficial to the powerful, but brings injustice to the weak, and about the choices of violence that we make under the fallacious pretext of security. We are witnessing the questioning of universal models.

Finally, we must revisit the place given to spirituality, in response to humankind’s pretension to “self-referentiality”, as Pope Francis says.

March 20 was the 7th anniversary of his Pontificate. During these seven years his strong words and his humility have been a living sign of the Gospel in action.

In the crisis we are experiencing there is a voice that believes, that hopes, that is full of love and consolation for all, especially for the weakest.

He pleads for justice, for the respect of cultures, for the recognition of the value of each individual. And he offers us this monumental gift of Laudato Si’ which could become more and more our Charter in the post-coronavirus era.

We find comfort in these prescient words of St. Romero first shared on 8 October 1978:

“Blessed are those who feel and live the crisis
and who settle it with a commitment to our Lord.
I am very glad that just at this moment of crisis
many who were asleep have awakened
and at least ask themselves
where the truth is to be found.

“Look for it.
St. Paul shows us the way:
with prayer,
with reflection,
appreciating what is good.

“These are wonderful criteria.

“Wherever there is ‘what is noble,
what is good,
what is right,’
there is God. [Philippians 4:8]

“If, besides these natural good things,
there is found grace,
the joy of a conscience divinized by God,
there is God.”

(Source: Pax Christi International)

Next on Novena:

1/1/20: Presidents of Pax Christi urge “peace and mutual respect” to break “mentality of threats and fears”

15/10/19: Catholic peace org Pax Christi expresses “deep concern” over EU “arms race”

9/9/19: Church groups, NGOs warn “EU peace project is under threat”

3/7/19: French bishop Marc Stenger new co-president of Pax Christi: “Christ is our guide to nonviolent deliberations”

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