“The coronavirus is very democratic in its transmission, but very elitist in its treatment”, a Vatican official has deplored.

– “Inequality is both a cause and a consequence of the pandemic”

With respect to COVID-19, “we’re all facing the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat. Some of us are in big boats with possibilities of being cared for and healed, but others are in small dinghies, totally unprotected and without any way of facing the storm, totally exposed and defenceless”, adjunct secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Fr. Augusto Zampini, told Ecclesia in an interview July 15.

Together with Dicastery secretary Bruno-Marie Duffé, Zampini is coordinating the group in the Vatican COVID-19 Commission charged by Pope Francis with a multidisciplinary analysis of the coronavirus pandemic and with coming up with proposals for the post-coronavirus world.

Part of that analysis, Zampini explained, has consisted in observing how “as the Holy Father said in the encyclical Laudato si’… the current global economic model does not work for the benefit of integral human development”.

“The failures of our systems have led to the current ecological crisis and growing global inequality”, Zampini decried, adding that “COVID-19 has exposed all these contradictions and the inherent weaknesses in our social structures and institutions”.

“Inequality is both a cause and a consequence of this and other pandemics and is also grossly unfair”, the priest deplored.

– “A unique moment to make a deep change, to build a healthier and more equitable world”

That analysis apart, the practical conviction of Zampini and his colleagues in the Vatican COVID-19 Commission – and of Pope Francis himself – is that the coronavirus crossroads “is a unique moment to make a deep change; to build a healthier and more equitable world and planet with healthy people and institutions”, as the Integral Human Development adjunct secretary put it.

“It is a question of taking advantage of this moment of caring for external hygiene to achieve greater internal hygiene”, Zampini continued. In the Vatican, “we want to help find new paths, alternative ways of producing, consuming and living that prevent us from falling back into ‘business as usual'”, he said.

The Vatican official explained that the COVID-19 Commission’s proposals are being formulated in real time “based on what people are experiencing” in the moment “and taking into account the international context, inspired by global discussions and events”.

As an example of that work dynamic, Zampini mentioned how when the idea of reducing or cancelling the sovereign debt burdens of poorer countries came up in the early weeks of the pandemic outbreak, in the Commission “we addressed that issue in depth”.

“If we want to prepare a healthier and fairer future, we cannot do so by putting into debt those who are already in debt”, Zampini warned on the question of debt forgiveness.

Another example Zampini offered of the Commission’s work was when Pope Francis mentioned the possibility of implementing a universal basic wage and “we studied this financial instrument in depth”.

The history of the model of the guaranteed income “shows that it has been applied by various countries in times of crisis and that, due to its easy implementation, for some countries it could be a way out: all the while sticking to a policy of promoting dignified and sustainable employment, of course”, Zampini explained.

– “We can’t get out of this without universal solidarity”

Other proposals Zampini said the Vatican COVID-19 Commission has considered in its work to date – “always from the reality of the poor as a priority of the Church” – have included the reactions to the pandemic of international organisations, economic rescue policies, cyber and food insecurity, armed conflicts in times of pandemic, and integral physical, mental and emotional health.

But if the Commission had just one recommendation born of its work so far, Zampini said it would be that “we can’t get out of the pandemic… without universal solidarity”.

“We want to help regenerate a new universal solidarity in the face of a pandemic that threatens to increase indifference [and] social exclusion, and [reorient] the pursuit of self-interest [to that of] the common good”, the Vatican official insisted.

More on Novena on the work of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission:

Vatican proposes on coronavirus recovery: “What if instead of an arms race we ‘race’ towards food, health and work security?”

Vatican official urges world “to press the reset button” on system post-coronavirus, forge “a new path”

Vatican redoubles efforts for post-coronavirus future “that completely integrates the human being in its dignity”

Vatican pleads with governments to divert weapons spending to ensure food security for world’s 800 million hungry

Member of Vatican COVID-19 commission sees pandemic as moment for “systemic and radical change”


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