(Source: Novena/Vatican News)

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, has discussed the importance of not neglecting the poor and most vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis, and has urged everyone to follow in Pope Francis’ footsteps and come out of this crisis stronger, with the help of technology which is so rapidly advancing.

Gallagher spoke at the Colloquium on Science Diplomacy at the Lincean Academy in Rome on Monday, on the theme “Fraternity, integral ecology and Covid-19: The contribution of diplomacy and science”.

The Vatican diplomat spoke of the “test” that Covid-19 has been to the whole of humanity.

Describing it as an “epochal crisis”, the coronavirus, he said, has “exposed the radical vulnerability of everyone and everything”, raising numerous doubts and concerns and causing our securities to “collapse”. Suddenly, he said, “we find ourselves weak and full of fear”.

Era full of contradictions

“We live in an era full of contradictions”, continued Archbishop Gallagher.

“If, on the one hand, we are witnessing unprecedented progress in various scientific fields, on the other hand, the world is facing multiple humanitarian crises in different areas of the planet, each of which are strongly interrelated”.

He then went on to mention four crises that the coronavirus has provoked.

The first was the “health crisis” and the repercussions that it will have on all aspects of life: “economy, politics, nutrition and access to food”.

A food crisis, he alerted, “is already underway”. Archbishop Gallagher explained that the pandemic will “further exacerbate” this crisis by compromising “production, distribution and access to food”, both in the long and short terms – “especially for the most vulnerable”. The spectre of famine, he alerted, is “crossing our world once more”.

This final point, he continued, brings us back to the environmental crisis.

“Climate change represents a multitude of threats, with the potential to push part of the world’s population into extreme poverty in the coming years, nullifying the significant progress made in terms of development and that was achieved with great difficulty”.

Continuing, Archbishop Gallagher noted that “to all of this is added the economic and social crisis”.

The pandemic continues to have significant economic repercussions with substantial effects on the labour market. It revealed and amplified many of the vulnerabilities and injustices that were already present.

“The devastating consequences of inequality can no longer be ignored. For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. The poor, especially those working in the informal sectors, were the first to see their means of survival disappear”, he said.

“The health crisis, food crisis, environmental crisis and socio-economic crisis are all highly interrelated transversal crises, so much so that we can speak of a single and complex socio-health-environmental crisis”.

The possibility of starting over

Archbishop Gallagher noted that “the Covid-19 pandemic can, in fact, represent a real moment of conversion and give rise to the possibility of starting over, a second chance”.

This requires a clear vision of what kind of society and economy we want to build, he said.

This clear vision cannot fail to bring about a careful evaluation and re-proposal of the concept of security. This, however, he continued, does not mean spending money to arm nations, as “weapons and armies will not guarantee greater security”.

“The international community is called upon to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and avoid shortsighted approaches to national and international security problems”.

Everything is connected

Making reference to Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Laudato si’, in which the Holy Father describes everything as being related and connected, Archbishop Gallagher said, “strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature”.

Education, continued Archbishop Gallagher, is essential in order to “adopt an integral point of view that favours an intimate knowledge of nature and its processes”. He discussed the importance of “spaces for education and formation”.

“The transforming power of education in integral ecology requires the patience to generate long-term processes, aimed at shaping genuinely sustainable policies and economies which promote quality of life, in favor of all peoples and the planet, especially the disadvantaged and those in situations of greater risk”, he said.

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed problems that already existed for years and that can no longer be avoided.

“The world was relentlessly moving towards an economy that, thanks to technological progress, sought to reduce ‘human costs’; there were those who would have had us believe that freedom of the market was sufficient to keep everything secure”.

Contribution of diplomacy and science

Archbishop Gallagher continued explaining that “a new alliance between science and humanism is indispensable”.

He said the two must be integrated and not separated, and should not be opposed to one another. The health and the economic and social development of our community depend on them.

Concerning the latter, we need “the development of a global community of fraternity based on the practice of social friendship on the part of peoples and nations”, Gallagher said, calling for “a better kind of politics, one truly at the service of the common good”.

“Sadly, politics today often takes forms that hinder progress towards a different world”, he lamented.

Archbishop Gallagher went on to note that “often, in our technologically advanced world, there is the temptation to seek solutions to problems through science and technology alone”. 

“An approach disconnected from the human person cannot reach a solid, just and human solution. It risks being partial, relative and ideological. In recent years, technological development has made it possible to achieve incredible progress for our societies, however it has also led to the belief that technology itself can predict all human activity using only data and algorithms”, Gallagher alerted.

“Instead, in order to face the consequences of the pandemic, I would argue that we must engage in innovative scientific and institutional models based on the sharing of knowledge and cooperation between different disciplines”, the Vatican diplomat argued, since “life is bigger than science”.

Archbishop Gallagher concluded by quoting Pope Francis:

“We never emerge from a crisis just as we were. We come out either better or worse. This is why, at this critical juncture, it is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project. A complex task lies before us, one that requires a frank and coherent dialogue aimed at strengthening multilateralism and cooperation between states”.

Novena’s full coverage of the COVID crisis:

In new interview, Pope calls for Universal Basic Income, urges focus “beyond shareholder value” in post-COVID economy

“Unsung heroes of the pandemic”: Francis thanks doctors, nurses for “closeness”, “tenderness” and “professionalism” (video)

Pope urges “transformation” of economy post-COVID: “It is time to let ‘the poor’ and ‘the excluded’ become protagonists in society”

Pope laments: “The virus is spreading unchecked, but we are unable to respond together”

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