The COVID-19 pandemic is “not God punishing us or tripping us up”, the Minister General of the Conventual Franciscans has insisted.

– A punishing God “not the God I know”

When asked in an interview July 31 whether the coronavirus is God’s correction of a sinful world, Carlos Alberto Trovarelli replied “no, no. I never think these things”.

“At least that’s not the God I know”, stressed Trovarelli, the 120th successor of St. Francis of Assisi.

COVID-19 “is not God’s punishment”, though “the opposite dynamic may be at play”, the friar hypothesised, explaining that “we have to learn from this what God has always said”.

“God doesn’t trip us up so crudely like that. History, life itself, man himself, creation are limited. Limitations are part of our life. What we have to do is read these things with the eyes of God”, Trovarelli continued.

“But God does not test like that. It is true that God tests our faith, our ability to be human… but not in this way. Let us not think of a God who punishes us, but instead [of the coronavirus] as a test of life that we can respond to according to God”.

– “A new world is possible” post-pandemic

Argentinian Trovarelli, at the head of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual since 2019, showed himself firm in the conviction that “a new world is possible” post-pandemic. The problem for him, however, is that “we know it and we don’t work for it”.

“Until the Second Coming of Christ, it is possible for each one of us, in what is in our hand to do – and also for those whose responsibility it is to make the big decisions – to remind the world that different decisions can be made”, the friar said.

That’s despite the fact that, according to Trovarelli, “there are interests [and] powers” who don’t want a different world post-COVID-19, but instead are angling to go back to ‘business as usual’.

– “Not even science” is enough: “there are other values that have to be present” in the world

In terms of the lessons the world must learn from the virus crisis, in the first place for the leader of the Minorites is more brother- and sisterhood. “This is very clear”, Trovarelli stressed, even if “we don’t always learn” from our animosity and indifference.

In the particular case of COVID-19, however, the friar explained that “beyond all the… scientific explanations for this virus, the problems at the health and social level have been problems of a lack of fraternity”.

“Government policies that have been put in place in recent years” reducing welfare spending, “reduced public health programs”…. for the Minister General of the Conventual Franciscans, these have been the real reasons the virus crisis has cut so deep.

“Also another thing to learn is true wisdom”, Trovarelli added. “We believe that some worldviews provide us with total knowledge and that is not the case. Not even science. There are other values that have to be present. Fraternity and understanding the true wisdom that makes us live as brothers”, the friar pleaded.

– A dream of “a fraternal Church, close to people, far removed from ultra-clericalist deviations”

Concluding the interview, the Minorite Minister General shared his idea vision of the Catholic institution, which he said amounts to “a fraternal Church, close to people [and] far removed from ultra-clericalist deviations”.

Trovarelli said his perfect Church was “more as a community of believers than as a perfect and totally pure Cathar society… I imagine it as believing, coherent, committed but fraternal, and in that sense in dialogue with the world”.

It’s a vision that coincides very closely with what Trovarelli said he believed St. Francis would tell the world if he were to come back to life today: “That the world not let itself be guided by inspirations that lead to dehumanisation, death [and] selfishness and that it live according to God”.

“May the world believe in the Gospel, which is the word of life… and may the world dare to humble itself”, Trovarelli summed up St. Francis’ hypothetical prayer for the world today.

More on Novena rebutting ideas of COVID-19 as punishment from God:

Spanish bishop warns: “There is nothing more pagan and anti-Christian than to consider COVID-19 a punishment from God”

85-year-old Spanish priest gives definitive answer as to why COVID-19 is not God’s punishment: “God is pure love, absolute solidarity”

Vatican official: Coronavirus “not God’s punishment, but our own self-punishment”

Portuguese cardinal calls “ignorance, fanaticism or madness” belief coronavirus is God’s punishment

Spanish cardinal: “No way” is coronavirus punishment from God

Coronavirus: Vatican cardinal urges “fundamentalists” to give up on “theory” pandemic God’s “revenge”

Cardinal calls “blasphemy” belief coronavirus is punishment from God

Italian cardinal dismisses conspiracy theory that coronavirus is “divine punishment”


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