“Democracy can be one of the victims of the pandemic if we do not take care with our political condition”, the Jesuit Superior General has warned.
“At this time… many governments – including so-called democratic governments – are taking the path of authoritarianism”, Father Arturo Sosa, leader of the world’s largest religious order since 2016, told Vatican News in an interview on the occasion July 31 of the feast of the order’s founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
As an example of the authoritarian turn many so-called democratic governments are presently taking, Sosa offered that of the countries which are restricting entrance rights and assistance to migrants and refugees with the excuse of the coronavirus pandemic, a policy “which is a great mistake if we want to make the world more fraternal and just”.
“To discriminate against migrants would be and is a great danger and would be a sign of a world that we do not want”, the Jesuit leader deplored.
Another worldwide development which Sosa said is of great concern is that of businesses firing or furloughing workers or reducing their healthcare and other benefits, again under the pretext of the COVID-19 crisis.
“In other words, the pandemic is an occasion to take steps forward or to take steps backward”, Sosa reflected.
“And we must be very aware of this as the Catholic Church and as people committed to justice and peace so that we can build a more welcoming, more democratic society”.
– “We do not want a world where it is always the poor who foot the bill”
Elsewhere in his interview with Vatican News, Sosa acknowledged that the pandemic “highlights the weaknesses in the social and political structure in which we live”, and predicted that “the health problem will be overcome somehow, but there will be political, economic and social consequences which we cannot even imagine at this time and which we have already begun to experience”.
In reference to the situation that is being experienced in Latin America – the new ‘ground zero’ of the pandemic after the havoc it wreaked in Europe and in the United States – Father Sosa expressed: “I fully share the immense pain of so many people who are suffering the consequences either because they have lost relatives, or because they have lost friends, or because they are suffering from the disease, or because they do not have access to the structures that can cure them, or because they have lost their jobs, or because they do not see possibilities for the future”.
Reflecting on the COVID-19 pain in his home continent, Venezuelan Sosa clamoured that “we do not want a world like this: we do not want a world where it is always the poor who foot the bill”.
To revert this dynamic “we really have to organise strategies to change political and social structures that make it possible to face epidemics, which we will always have in one way or another, and that can really humanise our life”, the Jesuit leader insisted.
Beyond all the bad news on the coronavirus front, Sosa had a word of hope for his Jesuit confreres in the message he released for the feast day of the order’s founder.
Reminding his brothers that as Jesuits “we have accepted the challenge to listen to the cry of the poor, the excluded [and] those whose dignity has been violated… and to promote together the transformation of the unjust structures that have become so evident in the current world crisis”, Sosa was clear: “this crisis is not only health and economic but, above all, social and political”.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the serious deficiencies in social relations at all levels, the international disorder and the causes of ecological imbalance”, the Jesuit Superior General denounced.
But he added: “Only the love of Jesus brings definitive healing. We can only be witnesses of that love if we are closely united to Him, among ourselves and with those thrown aside by the world and considered least”.