In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, “now we realise that we don’t have enough masks but there are more than enough bullets”, a Vatican cardinal has deplored.

– “We don’t have enough supplies of ventilators but we spend millions on warplanes”

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and the President of worldwide Church relief, development and social service network Caritas Internationalis, was speaking March 29 in a homily in a livestreamed Mass from Rome, as CBCPNews reports.

In the midst of the COVID-19 emergency, the prelate denounced that “we don’t have enough supplies of ventilators but we have millions of pesos, dollars or euros spent on one plane that could attack people”.

– Pleads with rich nations for “forgiveness of debts” so that two-thirds countries in “tombs of indebtedness” can “find life”

Cardinal Tagle continued on in his sermon saying that the skewed priorities of the West that put arms above health is leading to a shortage of resources, particularly in less than developed countries, that could end digging the “tombs” of the two-thirds world and their peoples.

For that reason, the former Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines urged rich countries to “forgive” the interest on their loans to poor countries “so that they could use their dwindling resources” on more immediate concerns.

“Forgiveness of debts so that those who are in the tombs of indebtedness could find life”, the cardinal explained with regard to his plea to the nations of the first world.

Tagle called for a COVID-19 “jubilee” modelled on the ancient Jewish celebration of the same name in which slaves and prisoners were freed, debts were forgiven and the mercies of God were made particularly manifest.

– “Could we stop wars, please? Could we stop producing weapons, please?”

But Cardinal Tagle didn’t just ask rich nations to forgive the interest on poorer countries’ debts.

He also asked the countries of the world for an immediate cease fire, in the same vein as did Pope Francis on Sunday, following the lead of UN Secretary General António Guterres.

Pope Francis called at the Angelus March 29 for an immediate stop to “all forms of hostilities”, the “creation of corridors for humanitarian aid”, an “openness to diplomacy”, and “attention to those who find themselves in situations of vulnerability”, especially in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tagle backed the Pope’s call by asking simply:

“Could we stop wars, please? Could we stop producing weapons, please? Could we get out of the tomb and spend the money for real security?”

The cardinal followed up on that appeal by pushing nations to stop excessive military spending and redirect the money to “real security” such as education, housing and food.

– A “pandemic of caring, compassion and love”

Tagle’s sermon Sunday on the coronavirus crisis is not the only strong statement on the pandemic the cardinal – known as the ‘Asian Pope Francis’ – has had in recent days.

In a video message last week, the Vatican prelate encouraged the world to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with a “pandemic… of caring, compassion and love”.

On the coronavirus outbreak, “we cannot wash our hands of our responsibility towards the poor, the elderly, the unemployed, the refugees, the homeless, the health providers, indeed all people, creation and future generations”, Tagle insisted.

More on Novena on the coronavirus crisis:

Pope cautions governments on coronavirus: to put economy before people would be “viral genocide”

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

Vatican cardinal Tagle, on coronavirus: “We should wash our hands, but not of our responsibility for the vulnerable”

Vatican bodies denounce “selfishness and shortsightedness” of “uncoordinated” national responses to coronavirus

Italian Catholic groups, NGOs call on PM to explain why arms industry allowed to continue amid coronavirus shutdown


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.