“No way” is coronavirus a punishment from God, a Spanish cardinal has said.

– “God is a good Father who accompanies his children”

“God is a good Father who accompanies his children, to whom he has given the precious gift of freedom”, Cardinal Juan José Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona, told the Spanish news agency EFE in an interview April 8.

The new President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference in that way rejected out of hand the ultraconservative conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 outbreak – which has as of this Wednesday infected more than 1.3 million people around the world and killed over 82,000 – is evidence of God’s wrath.

– “If we showed more solidarity, wouldn’t that solve many of our problems?”

The Barcelona archbishop continued by saying that “God has made us his collaborators in the transformation of the world that is limited, not perfect”.

“Sometimes natural calamities, earthquakes, epidemics come… and we try to solve them. So what use is prayer? For God to enlighten us and help us find the solution”.

“God helps those who help themselves”, Omella went on, encouraging Catholics to continue working with people of other faiths and religious ‘nones’ “to solve things, but working together, with generosity, without fighting, living in fraternity and solidarity, and never ceasing to pray”.

“If we showed more solidarity, wouldn’t that solve many of our problems, such as the great pandemic of hunger in developing countries or the great pandemic of the loneliness of our elderly?”, the cardinal asked.

– Union this Holy Week with Christians suffering war, persecution and the horrors of refugee camps

Acknowledging that this year the faithful will live a “special, different Easter” due to the coronavirus pandemic, Omella urged Catholics to remember this Holy Week “that many Christians around the world have been celebrating Easter for years in times of war, persecution, epidemics or in refugee camps”.

“This situation will allow us to feel more united to them”, the cardinal recalled.

Asked whether it wouldn’t be better to trust modern medicine to provide the solution to the coronavirus outbreak, rather than God, Omella responded that “it is absolutely necessary to trust doctors and science… to appreciate what they’re doing, but not stopping our prayer to God to enlighten them and give them strength and help”.

As Catholics but also as a part of society “we must never take away, but add. Never exclude but instead join forces and help”, the cardinal insisted.

– Warning against using the coronavirus to create ghettos and further exclusion

Omella, in fact, had a special message for non-believing Spaniards this Easter in the time of the coronavirus:

“One can say: ‘I cannot pray because I do not believe’. But you can believe in the love of the people around you and find hope there”.

“I have been moved to see the solidarity of thousands of citizens who have created care networks for the elderly or the dependent, and I encourage them to keep it alive in the not-so-easy future that awaits us”, Omella went on.

“We are all children of God, a part of humanity”, the cardinal explained.

“We are a whole and it is up to all of us to move forward.

“To overcome this pandemic and to face the economic crisis that it will cause, we need everyone”, Omella insisted.

“Together we’ll get out of this, but if we want to make ghettos or exclude part of society, we’re going to get bogged down”, the cardinal warned.

– Maybe we’ve been living lives “too excessively focused on the material, on possessing”

Cardinal Omella concluded his interview with EFE reflecting on how we as a society will come out the other side of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although he warned “it’s early to anticipate what will change” after the virus crisis, he did say he noticed people have been thinking “whether we haven’t been leading a life that was too stressed [and] too excessively focused on the material, on possessing”.

“Little by little we’re discovering that we can live at a different pace and that there are things that are much less urgent and things that are much more important.

“We were getting more and more isolated but now, confined to the home, spouses have more time to live together, to be with their children, to be more aware of family and friends”, Omella celebrated.

“We are rediscovering that we are vulnerable. We thought that technology and material goods solved everything but then suddenly, a small virus has put us in check.

“Furthermore, we have discovered that we need each other and that we have to be grateful for the human and material help of others whom we ignored and even looked at with suspicion”, the Barcelona archbishop reflected.

“Let us not lose hope because in the world and in the hearts of men there is more capacity for good than for evil”, Cardinal Omella said.

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