Pope Francis has at least partially blamed Italian tax cheats for doctors having to choose who lives and dies in the coronavirus pandemic.

– The importance of “small, concrete gestures expressing closeness”

The pontiff was speaking in an interview published this March 18 in Italian paper La Repubblica.

In the same, he underlined that “during these difficult days we can find small, concrete gestures expressing closeness and concreteness towards the people closest to us, a caress for our grandparents, a kiss for our children, for the people we love.

“These are important, decisive gestures. If we live these days like this, they won’t be wasted”, the Pope emphasised.

– Virus crisis must help us discover “a new closeness”

Deploring the “anonymity of everyday life” and the solitude in company we too often live in the self-isolation of TV and mobile phones, Francis encouraged people to discover in the coronavirus pandemic “a new closeness” to one another, and “more concrete relationships made of attention and patience”.

“We must rediscover the concreteness of little things, small gestures of attention we can offer those close to us, our family, our friends. We must understand that in small things lies our treasure”, the Pope insisted.

“These gestures of tenderness, affection, compassion, are minimal and tend to be lost… but they are nonetheless decisive, important”, he continued.

“They are familiar gestures of attention to the details of everyday life that make life meaningful and that create communion and communication amongst us”.

– “Consolation” for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle, families of victims

Francis also had words of encouragement and gratitude in his interview with La Repubblica for the families of the victims of coronavirus, as well as for the law and order and medical professionals working to keep the population safe and healthy.

“I thank those who give themselves in this way to others”, the Pope said, praising the doctors and nurses attending to COVID-19 patients as examples of the “concreteness” he called the whole world to discover in these days.

“I ask everyone to stay close to those who have lost loved ones, to be close to them in every possible way. Consolation must now be everyone’s commitment”, Francis added.

– Criticisms of those who don’t pay their taxes: lack of beds, medical equipment “also their fault”

With 31,506 infections and 2,503 deaths – including those of at least ten priests – from coronavirus, as of this Wednesday, Italy’s health system is presently under such serious stress and facing such a dire lack of medical equipment that doctors are being forced to choose who lives and who dies.

Italian TV presenter Fabio Fazio wrote also in La Repubblica recently of the country’s lack of healthcare resources, and the Pope said he was “very impressed” by some of Fazio’s comments.

In general, Francis said he appreciated Fazio’s observation that the coronavirus crisis is highlighting “the fact that our behaviour always affects the lives of others”.

“He [Fazio] is right, for example, when he says:

‘It has become evident that those who do not pay taxes do not only commit a felony but also a crime [delitto, “murder”]: if there are not enough hospital beds and artificial respirators, it is also their fault’.

“I was very impressed by this”, the Pope said.

– “Believe in the love of the people around us”

Francis added that during his “pilgrimage” through Rome’s empty streets to two famous churches Sunday he “asked the Lord to stop the epidemic: Lord, stop it with your hand. That’s what I prayed for”.

But even those without faith “can find their way through this, in the good things they believe in: they can find strength in love for their children, for their family, for their brothers and sisters”, the Pope insisted.

“One can say: ‘I cannot pray because I do not believe.’ But at the same time, however, he can believe in the love of the people around him, and thus find hope”.

As an example of the “hope” believers and non-believers are drawing deep to find during the coronavirus crisis – and of Pope Francis’ leadership and example during the outbreak – it’s worthwhile noting that the pontiff’s daily Masses streamed on the internet from the chapel of his residence in the Vatican, the Casa Santa Marta, are now drawing a live audience of about 6,000 people, despite the fact that they take place at the early 7am Rome time.

Next on Novena:

18/3: Coronavirus: Pope thanks in Santa Marta Mass healthcare professionals “who have given their life” for sick

17/3: In Santa Marta Mass, Francis remembers elderly “suffering” in virus crisis, speaks too of “God’s sickness”

16/3: Santa Marta Mass: Pope hopes virus crisis leads to “new expressions of love”

15/3: Pope makes Rome “pilgrimage” for end to coronavirus “plague”, “consolation and comfort” of victims, healthcare workers

15/3: Angelus: Pope offers hope to coronavirus quarantined: “United to Christ we are never alone”

15/3: Francis praises in Santa Marta Mass those working to guarantee public services amid coronavirus crisis

Due to coronavirus, papal Easter events to be held without physical presence of faithful


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