(Source: Leonardo Boff, Brazilian theologian; translation: Novena)

Pablo Richard is a Chilean theologian who lives in Costa Rica and is a member of the DEI [the Costa Rican Ecumenical Research Department – Departamento Ecuménico de Investigaciones – ed.], which has made many contributions to liberation theology by looking into the economy and the Bible.

Richard is also an exegete, with vast knowledge in the field of sociology, and does admirable work with grassroots communities through popular readings of the Bible. He has written several books of high quality.

A new singular work of his is below. A lot of analysts around the world look like Fachidioten, specialized idiots: everything is concentrated on medicine, technology, medical supplies, especially masks, and the desperate search for a vaccine. There is practically nobody that talks about nature, which is where the coronovirus comes from.

The virus is a kind of counter-attack from Earth-Gaia because of the humans’ centuries-old aggressions against it. If we do not change our relationship with nature, the Earth will send us even more deadly viruses.

The future will be a linkage between ecology and economy – thinking everything from the point of view of ecology, because that will be front and centre and will put limits on productivist voracity.

A source of inspiration for the new order to come is Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’: on care for our common home.

Richard has collected the best texts from the encyclical to better understand the reasons why COVID-19 raided the whole planet and how to get out of this crisis of planetary dimensions.

“Pope Francis and the coronavirus pandemic”

– By Pablo Richard, Chilean priest and liberation theologian

A ‘pandemic’ is a disease that spreads to many countries and continents, attacking many individuals in a locality or region. The coronavirus pandemic attacked and reached all around whole earth because the world was destroyed and disrupted globally.

The coronavirus pandemic did not come out of nowhere and did not attack us as an unseen mysterious force. Our social economic system of recent times led the way and gave it all its strength.

Pope Francis, five years before the coronavirus attack, published his encyclical letter Laudato si’: on care for our common home. It is his most complete ecological thinking.

If that ecology had been implemented we wouldn’t have a coronavirus pandemic.

Quotations from the encylical:

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.

2. […] the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

13. […] Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.

“What is happening to our home: pollution and climate change, garbage and the throwaway culture”

21. Account must also be taken of the pollution produced by residue, including dangerous waste present in different areas. […] The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.

23. […] A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.

24. […] If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. 

25. Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.

29. One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances.

30. Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market.

31. […] The environmental repercussions [of an acute water shortage] could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.

33. […] Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever.

44. Nowadays, for example, we are conscious of the disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities, which have become unhealthy to live in… […] We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature.

48. The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.

The human causes of the ecological crisis

109. […] Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth.

Integral ecology

139. […] We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.

161. […] We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.

How would we see the world if we had read and put into practice Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’ published in June 2015?

More on Novena on theology and the coronavirus:

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

Spanish bishop warns: “There is nothing more pagan and anti-Christian than to consider coronavirus a punishment from God”

85-year-old Spanish priest gives definitive answer as to why coronavirus is not God’s punishment: “God is pure love, absolute solidarity”

Liberation theologian says coronavirus new ‘1984’: “Our fragile democratic institutions are under threat”


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