After COVID-19, “the world cannot return to business as usual”, the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and of Social Science have warned.

– “A more responsible society is required if we are to survive”

Chancellor of the two academies Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, along with presidents Joachim von Braun and Stefano Zamagni, published an editorial in Science magazine April 17.

In that piece, they insisted that, after the coronavirus pandemic, “a thorough review of worldviews, lifestyles, and the problems of short-term economic valuation must be carried out”.

“A more responsible, more sharing, more caring, more inclusive, and fairer society is required if we are to survive in the Anthropocene”, the academy figures said.

– Digital divide “may be costing lives”

Sánchez Sorondo, von Braun and Zamagni dedicated their article to decrying the fact that COVID-19 “has illuminated inequities that have put poor people – in both low-income nations and in rich countries – at the greatest risk of suffering”.

Among those inequalities, they said, are unsuitable housing in which to practise social distancing, but also a “digital divide” between rich and poor that they warned “may be costing lives”.

“Inequitable distribution of technology and online resources means that crucial information on COVID-19, particularly early warnings and recommended early responses, are not timely, if received at all, in low-income communities”, the presidents and chancellor of the pontifical academies denounced.

They said that “without access to responsible, transparent, and current information, a cacophony of unproven assumptions can instead spread through poor communities”.

Not only that, but the gap in access to technology also means a lack of opportunities for the poor for distance learning and teleworking, according to the pontifical academies.

“What COVID-19 is teaching us is that universal access to internet and communication technologies should be a human right”, the academics claimed.

– “Seeking a solution through national isolation would be counterproductive”

Not only is COVID-19 “destroying” national economies and the livelihoods of small businesses and farmers, the representatives of the pontifical academies continued, but the pandemic is also increasing hunger and exacerbating the strain on public health systems.

“The global agenda to advance the United Nations (UN) sustainability goals – particularly those related to poverty, hunger, health, decent work, and economic growth – will be undermined by COVID-19, unless the world cooperates and includes the rescue of small businesses and farmers as it seeks to avoid a global economic crisis”, the chancellor and presidents cautioned.

The coronavirus “has also exposed the fragility of interconnectedness”, they went on, in the sense that the cross-border flows of goods, services, money, ideas, and people that allowed so many to escape poverty have now been limited to limit the spread of the disease.

Such border closures “must be temporary only, and they must not hinder cooperation between nations to handle the pandemic”, Sánchez Sorondo, von Braun and Zamagni wrote, adding that “human resources, equipment, knowledge about treatments, and supplies, as well as nonmarket and spiritual goods, must be shared, including with poor countries”.

“The pandemic initially inspired nations to look inward. Seeking a solution to COVID-19 through national isolation would be counterproductive”, as the coronavirus “does not recognize borders”, the pontifical academy representatives said.

Urging the first world to close its science and research gap with developing countries, Sánchez Sorondo, von Braun and Zamagni concluded with a warning that “other major global crises, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, demand cooperative global responses that don’t leave out the poor”.

On Novena, more Vatican responses to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Vatican academies denounce “selfishness and shortsightedness” of “uncoordinated” national responses to COVID-19

Cardinal Turkson: Vatican mobilising Church’s “whole network of charity and solidarity” to tackle COVID-19

Vatican dicastery warns integral ecology “only way to face challenges of the future”, calls for “new development model”

Vatican education ‘ministry’ laments digital divide keeping children from learning during coronavirus


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