Vatican cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and President of Church charity Caritas Internationalis, has said on the COVID-19 crisis that we should wash our hands, but not of our responsibility for vulnerable people.

Full text of Cardinal Tagle’s reflection

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We are faced with an emergency due to the coronavirus-19. An emergency, from the Latin word emergere, refers to an unforeseen occurrence that rises before us and requires attention.

Emergencies are not new to us. Every year we experience earthquakes, typhoons, floods, drought and diseases. But they are often confined to a limited place and people.

The current COVID-19 emergency is called pandemic, from the two Greek words: pan, meaning “all”, and demos, meaning “people or population”.

pandemia affects all or nearly all people. We can say that the COVID-19 is a general or universal emergency. It affects nearly all of us. It invites a response from all of us.

During emergencies, we instinctively think first of ourselves, our families and the people close to us. We will do anything within our means to protect them.

While this reaction is basically good, we should be careful so that we do not end up thinking only of ourselves.

We should avoid fear from making us blind to the needs of other people; those needs that are the same as ours. We should prevent anxiety from killing genuine concern for neighbors.

In an emergency, the true heart of a person also emerges. From an emergency that affects all people (pandemia), we hope to see a pandemic emergence of caring, compassion and love.

An emergency crisis that erupts unexpectedly can be addressed only by an equal “eruption” of hope. A pandemic spread of a virus must produce a pandemic “contagion” of charity.

History will judge our generation by the power of the selfless love that this common emergency will have generated and spread or will have failed to do so.

We thank the heroic people whose love and courage have already been a source of healing and hope these past weeks.

Experts say that we should wash our hands to avoid being contaminated by the virus and to avoid spreading it. At the trial of Jesus, Pontius Pilate “called for water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, declaring as he did, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just man. The responsibility is yours’” (Matthew 27:24).

We should wash our hands, but not the way Pilate did.

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.

We pray through the power of the Holy Spirit, genuine love for all may emerge from all human hearts as we face a common emergency.

(Source: Vatican News)

More on Novena on the COVID-19 pandemic:

Vatican bodies denounce “selfishness and shortsightedness” of “uncoordinated” national responses to COVID-19

Doctors, nurses, parents, teachers… Pope says “generous self-denial” of “forgotten” COVID-19 heroes hope for future

Francis – to celebrate Easter without physical presence of faithful – donates respirators to COVID-19-hit hospitals in Italy, Spain

Italian priest, on COVID-19: “After the crisis, there’ll be a rush to restart the economy. Will we forget the values we’ve learned?”

“Couldn’t just stay home”: Italian priest goes back to nursing for COVID-19 sick

Swiss Church urges solidarity with poorest in COVID-19 crisis, suspends public Masses until May

Maltese Catholic groups sound COVID-19 alarm for poor: “Although illness doesn’t discriminate, the economic fall‑out will”


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