The coronavirus is not God’s punishment, but rather our own self-punishment for how we as people have treated the natural world and our fellow humans, a leading Vatican official has said.

– “My main concern now is food security”

Father Augusto Zampini Davies, the new adjunct secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was speaking April 23 in a press conference on Facebook.

He said that “if we think about how we have treated nature, animals and ourselves, we realise that the pandemic is not a punishment from God, but rather a self-punishment”.

An expert in moral theology, law and international development, Zampini is an integral part of the new Vatican taskforce Pope Francis has set up to tackle the social and economic aftermath of COVID-19.

The 50-year-old Argentinian priest is heading up one of five working groups in the Vatican COVID-19 commission – on the consequences of the pandemic for areas such as ecology, economics, labour, healthcare, politics, communications and security – and as such is already thinking about what the ‘day after’ the coronavirus might look like.

“My main concern now is food security”, acknowledged the priest, who warned that because of COVID-19 “there’s a risk of famine” in many places around the world.

In the Vatican, Zampini said, “we have a deep concern about the global South of the world, because it lacks the health and economic resources to face the crisis as developed countries do”.

“Famine is a political problem; we need to work together as a family. It is a very complex issue and requires a lot of international cooperation”, the priest affirmed.

– Pope “concerned” about pandemic’s “social and economic consequences”

The Argentinian priest warned the press.that “the pandemic will change many things in the world”.

In the COVID-19 commission, he added, “the Pope called us to ask us to pay special attention to two things”.

On the one hand, “the immediate response of local Churches and [of actors] beyond the Church to people’s healthcare needs, particularly to [the need for] humanitarian assistance”, he said.

“But [the Pope] also said that we have to look to the future. He explicitly told us that he was concerned about the social and economic consequences of this pandemic”, Zampini said.

“The pandemic is terrible – people are dying from the virus – but we know that it will not last long; in a year they should be able to find a medical solution […]

“However people [also] lose their job, they stop producing… There’s a risk of famine and we can’t afford it, especially in the midst of the pandemic”, the Church expert cautioned.

– “We must think big”

Zampini went on to say that COVID-19, though “a terrible thing”, “also represents an opportunity for changes that can allow society to face unprecedented situations. We must think big”.

Explaining that on the Pope’s instructions he and his colleagues “produce material every week” on the ramifications of the coronavirus, Zampini emphasised that “now is the time to review what we’re doing with poor countries”.

“Something must be done and our group is in contact with the other Vatican departments and other organisations to see what to do and how to act, putting people first and foremost”, he said.

The Vatican objective in its response to the pandemic, Zampini explained to reporters, is to come to a comprehensive vision of an optimum future society.

“Not only in these times of the pandemic”, he added, but “also because of the social economic prospects and the need to respond to problems to save the planet”.

More on Novena on Vatican responses to the coronavirus:

Vatican cardinal Farrell urges world to set aside individualism, isolationism in fight against coronavirus

On coronavirus rescue, Vatican official Zampini tells governments “don’t repeat the mistakes” of 2008 GFC bailouts

Pontifical Academies warn after coronavirus “the world cannot return to business as usual”

Praising doctors and nurses, papal almoner says Church “learning Gospel from laity” during coronavirus

Cardinal Turkson: Vatican mobilising Church’s “whole network of charity and solidarity” to tackle coronavirus


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