Pope Francis has rallied the Church to “active, supportive, patient and courageous resistance” to post-coronavirus “skepticism and fatalism”.
– A letter to Roman priests
“Hope also depends on us and requires that we help each other to keep it alive and active; that contagious hope that is cultivated and strengthened in the encounter with others and that, as a gift and a task, is given to us to construct the new ‘normality’ that we so desire” post-coronavirus, the pontiff wrote in a letter to priests of the diocese of Rome published May 30.
As bishop of the diocese, Pope Francis would normally have met the priests of Rome at Easter for the Chrism Mass.
Due to virus social distancing, however, that liturgy was not possible this year, and to make up for the missed appointment – and to “accompany, share and confirm” the clerics’ journey during the pandemic – Francis penned a letter instead, which he said he hoped would strengthen priests to “love and serve more” in the virus reconstruction phase.
– “We lived communally the hour of the Lord’s weeping”
The Pope included in his letter to Roman priests a litany of his sufferings during the pandemic: his pain, he said, at the “numbers and percentages that day after day assailed us”, at the “disconsolate” faces of people mourning loved ones without the comfort of a physical funeral and at the “suffering and helplessness” of health and other essential workers, the elderly, the laid-off or the furloughed.
“The unpredictability of the situation highlighted our inability to live with and face the unknown, which we cannot govern or control, and like everyone else, we felt confused, frightened, helpless”, the Pope told the priests.
Indeed, the suffering was so bad that Francis acknowledged that “we might say that we lived communally the hour of the Lord’s weeping”.
– “No one can think of getting by alone. We are all affected”
Now however, as the tears begin to dry – at least in Europe – a recovery must commence, and the Pope warned that that task will not be easy.
“Our usual ways of relating, organising, celebrating, praying, summoning and even dealing with conflicts have been changed and challenged by an invisible presence that has turned our everyday life into adversity”, the Pope noted, adding that “the characteristics of the virus make the logic with which we were used to divide or classify reality disappear”.
“The pandemic knows no adjectives, no boundaries, and no one can think of getting by alone. We are all affected and involved”, he insisted.
– Dangers of “brooding” over the desolation or trusting in ‘business as usual’
Moving forward, the Pope called the world to realise that “the narrative of a society of prophylaxis, imperturbable and always ready for indefinite consumption has been questioned, revealing the lack of cultural and spiritual immunity to conflict”.
The deep questions that came up during society’s examination of conscience during the pandemic, the pontiff added, “will not be answered simply by the reopening of various activities”, but instead require “a way of listening which is attentive but full of hope, serene but tenacious, constant but not anxious, which can prepare and pave the way for the Lord’s call to us”.
“Personally and communally exposed, and affected in our vulnerability and frailty and in our limitations, we run the serious risk of withdrawing and of ‘brooding’ over the desolation that the pandemic presents to us, as well as of exasperating ourselves into unlimited optimism, incapable of accepting the true extent of events”, Francis observed.
– “The Resurrection is the announcement that things can change”
How then to rebuild post-coronavirus?
Warning against “waiting for everything to return to ‘normal’, ignoring the deep wounds and the number of people who have fallen in the meantime” – and against “paralysing nostalgia for the recent past” that prevents us from dreaming up new ways of life – the Pope encouraged “a realistic and creative imagination, capable of abandoning the logic of repetition, replacement or preservation”.
“If an impalpable presence has been able to disrupt and overturn the priorities and seemingly irremovable global agendas that so suffocate and devastate our communities and our sister earth, let us not fear that it is the presence of the Risen One that traces our path, opens horizons and gives us the courage to live this historic and unique moment”, Francis wrote.
The Pope closed his letter recalling that “the Resurrection is the announcement that things can change”.
“Let the Pasch, which knows no frontiers, lead us creatively to the places where hope and life are fighting, where suffering and pain become a context favourable to corruption and speculation, where aggression and violence seem to be the only way out”, he concluded in his letter.
– A rosary in the Vatican Gardens for an end to the pandemic
Also today, the Pope led over a hundred people in the Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens, and thousands more around the world, in a rosary for an end the pandemic.
The Glorious Mysteries were prayed in the gardens by various people connected to coronavirus suffering: a doctor and a nurse on the hospital frontlines, virus victims, a priest and nun who have been tending the sick, a pharmacist and journalist and, finally, a member of the Italian Civil Protection service, with his family.
At the beginning and the end of the rosary, Francis recited the prayers he encouraged to be used with the Marian devotion throughout this month.
The Pope also addressed words of greetings to the 50 Marian shrines around the world who connected to the moment of prayer today in the Vatican, including churches from Israel, the US, Canada and Brazil.