Pope Francis has cautioned governments that to put the economy before people amid the COVID-19 pandemic would be “viral genocide”.

– “Edified” by those “who risk their lives to heal and defend healthy people from the contagion”

“We are all concerned at the increase, in geometric progression, of the pandemic”, the pontiff wrote a letter March 28 to Judge Roberto Andrés Gallardo, the Argentinean president of the Pan-American Committee of Men and Women Judges for Social Rights, as news agency Télam reported.

In the midst of the exponential growth of COVID-19, however – which has as of this Monday infected 721,273 people around the world and killed 34,414 – the pontiff said he had been “edified by the reaction of so many persons, doctors, nurses, volunteers, religious [women and men], priests, who risk their lives to heal and defend healthy people from the contagion”.

– Quarantine measures “‘bother’ those forced to comply with them, but it is always for the common good”

“Some governments have taken exemplary measures, with priorities that are well targeted at defending the population”, the Pope continued, with regard to the anti-COVID-19 lockdown laws in place around a large part of the world.

“It is true that these measures ‘bother’ those who are forced to comply with them, but it is always for the common good and, in the long run, most people accept them and have a positive attitude”, Francis continued.

“The governments that face the crisis in this way show the priority of their decisions: the people first.

“And this is important because we know that to defend the people supposes an economic disaster.

“It would be sad if [governments] opted for the opposite” of a ‘people first’ approach on COVID-19, the Pope said, “which would lead to the death of very many people, something like a viral genocide”.

– “There are already consequences that must be faced”

In his letter to Judge Gallardo, the Pope referred to a meeting he convened last week with officials of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development to study “the present situation and on what comes after”.

“It is important to prepare ourselves for what follows”, Francis explained.

“There are already some consequences that must be faced: hunger, above all for persons without a permanent job (odd jobs, etc.), violence, the appearance of usurers (who are the true plague of a social future, dehumanized delinquents)”, the Pope insisted.

On the “economic future” after COVID-19, the pontiff commented to the Argentine jurist that he found “interesting” the vision of Italian-US economist and University College London professor Mariana Mazzucato.

Francis said he believed Mazzucato’s work “can help to think about the future”.

He made particular mention of the economist’s 2018 book, The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy, which deplores the value-extraction rather than value-creation model inherent in the current global economic system and calls for a stronger role in the economy for the State.

More on Novena on the Pope and COVID-19:

Angelus 29/3: Francis pleads for “immediate global ceasefire” to combat COVID-19 crisis

Vatican tests 170 people for COVID-19, confirms two new positives but says Pope “not involved”

Pope blesses world, says COVID-19 “not God’s judgment” but our “time to choose”

Francis – to celebrate Easter without physical presence of faithful – donates respirators to coronavirus-hit hospitals

General Audience 25/3: On COVID-19, beyond, Pope urges world to embrace “solidarity, caring and welcome” of “culture of life”

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.