“Roots, memory, brotherhood and hope”. Pope Francis has pointed the way out of the virus crisis as Italian president Sergio Mattarella has thanked him for his care and concern for the country, overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

– “The crisis will help to remind us, once and for all, that humanity is a single community”

In an interview with Italy daily La Stampa, published on Friday, Pope Francis spoke of the sorrow and pain that “everyone” is experiencing due to the coronavirus.

The only way to survive this situation, he said, is by sticking together.

The Pope invited us to live this moment “with penance, compassion and hope”. We need “humility”, he added, “because too often we forget” there are dark times in life as well.

“We think they can only happen to someone else. But these times are dark for everyone”, he said.

Pope Francis explained that the season of Lent “trains us to show solidarity with others, especially those who suffer”.

The Pope emphasised the importance of prayer, recalling how the Apostles turn to Jesus to save them during the storm (Mark 4:35-41).

“Prayer helps us understand our vulnerability”, he said.

“It is the cry of those who are sinking, who feel they are in danger and alone. And in a difficult, desperate situation, it is important to know that the Lord is there to cling to”. 

Pope Francis made no distinction between “believers and non-believers”.

People are weeping because they are suffering, he said.

“Everyone” is suffering. “We are all children before God”, he added.

The Pope then spoke of those who are dying alone and without the comfort of their families.

He said he was struck by the story of an elderly woman who said her final goodbye to her loved ones over a phone belonging to one of the nurses.

“The pain of those who have died without saying goodbye becomes a wound in the hearts of those who are left behind”, said Pope Francis.

He thanked “all the nurses, doctors and volunteers who, despite their incredible exhaustion”, offer themselves, “with patience and kindness” to stand in for family members who cannot be there.

Pope Francis also addressed the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for our future.

The current crisis will help to remind us “once and for all, that humanity is a single community”, he said.

It will teach us that “universal kinship” is important and critical.

We should think about it like a “post-war” phenomenon, he said: “It will no longer be ‘them’. It will be ‘us’. Because we can only come out of this situation together”.

Pope Francis concluded saying: “We will need to look even more closely at our roots: our grandparents, the elderly”.

We will need “to build true kinship amongst us”.

– Italian President thanks Pope for “enlightening pastoral mission”, “fatherly witness” during “period of particular trials”

In the meantime, and on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the beginning of his pontificate, Italian President Sergio Mattarella addressed a message of congratulations to the Pope on the behalf of the citizens of the country.

To face today’s dramatic challenge, of coronavirus, Mattarella recalled the Holy Father’s calls for dialogue, for solidarity between peoples and to find a way out of the “throwaway culture”.

“Italy, today determined to face exceptional circumstances, knows that it can always look with confidence and gratitude to the Pope’s special care for the country”, the president wrote in his message of congratulations for Francis’ seventh anniversary as pontiff, which has coincided with a “period of particular trials”, the politician said, due to the worldwide spread of COVID-19.

Mattarella expressed his appreciation to the Pope for his “special closeness” to Italy: a proximity Francis has demonstrated with visits to places of worship that “for centuries have represented sources of comfort and hope”, as the president observed.

Last Sunday, in fact, the pontiff visited the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to venerate the icon of the Salus Populi Romani and the church of San Marcello al Corso to pray before the miraculous wooden crucifix there – which saved Rome from the plague in 1522 – and to implore an end to the pandemic.

From there, President Mattarella cast his gaze to the entire world – put to the test by the spread of the virus – to observe that the international community finds in the Pope’s “enlightening pastoral mission” and in his “fatherly witness” to the Gospel “a pressing invitation” to rediscover reasons for collaboration and solidarity between States and peoples.

And precisely to better overcome “today’s dramatic challenge” and chart a bright path into the future, the president hopes that Pope Francis’ perspective “can be easily accepted” by peoples all over the world.

(With information from Vatican News)

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