A Vatican official has urged the world “to press the reset button” on the system post-COVID and to forge “a new path”.

– “The way we have been living our lives until now is not sustainable”

“We need leaders in public, private and civil sectors to press the reset button — to once and for all realize that the way we have been living our lives until now is not sustainable”, Father Augusto Zampini told Our Sunday Visitor in an interview published July 1.

Zampini, an Argentinian priest expert in moral theology and international development who has also trained and practised as a lawyer, was the co-ordinator of the section for Development and Faith in the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development from 2016 until he became adjunct secretary of the dicastery in April.

As part of his new role, Zampini, 50, is heading up the working group in the Vatican’s COVID-19 Commission which is focussed on responding to the ecological and economic dimensions of the pandemic.

– “A rapid return to a ‘normality’ that was unequal and unsustainable… would be the worst outcome” post-pandemic

As well as warning of the unsustainability of our modern way of life, Zampini lamented the “weakness” of modern-day social and economic institutions: a deficiency, he said, that has been exposed not only by COVID-19 but also by other global crises such as climate change, social inequality and food insecurity.

But on the coronavirus pandemic especially – “the latest symptom of the underlying ecological crisis” – the priest observed that “the world was horribly unprepared for a crisis of this scale”.

“We were shocked by our own vulnerability in seeing how public health systems were horribly overwhelmed, supply chains disrupted and millions of livelihoods threatened”, Zampini lamented.

The Vatican official acknowledged that the “natural instinct” now is to push for “a return to old institutions and a quick economic recovery”.

But he insisted that “a rapid return to a ‘normality’ that was unequal and unsustainable… would be the worst outcome” post-coronavirus.

For that reason, Zampini said the Vatican COVID-19 Commission, under Pope Francis’ leadership, is busy making the most of this “unprecedented opportunity to reflect on the shortcomings of our institutions and development models” to draw up proposals “to envision a better future” post-pandemic.

– Responding to “the realities and struggles of the unemployed, migrants and refugees… inspired by the preferential option for the poor”

One of the proposals for the post-COVID-19 future the Vatican Commission is presently working on, Zampini told Our Sunday Visitor, is that of sovereign debt reduction or cancellation “so as to enable countries to use fiscal surpluses to invest in health systems”.

Secondly, as the official explained, the Vatican is getting behind the call both of Pope Francis and of UN Secretary-General António Guterres for a global ceasefire in the coronavirus context, and insisting too that States reduce weapons production, redirect financial resources away from military expenditure and increase peace-building efforts.

A third pillar of the Vatican’s post-pandemic work today, Zampini continued, is focusing on envisioning social protections for marginalized groups with the promotion of measures like a universal basic income, the public provision of essential goods, the extension of work visas for seasonal workers or the simplification of hiring procedures.

Finance, too, is also “an essential tool to reconfigure our economies toward a better, inclusive and sustainable future” post-COVID-19, Zampini explained, and for that reason a fourth priority for the Vatican is investments compatible with Catholic values.

“Concretely, this means moving investment portfolios away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energies; away from deforestation-risk activities toward large-scale reforestation initiatives”, the Dicastery for Human Development official explained, noting that such initiatives make not only moral but also economic sense as well.

“Studies have shown that these kinds of investments have actually proved to be more resilient throughout the pandemic than traditional investment portfolios. We know that these initiatives already exist, so our primary goal is to support them”, he explained.

In sum, the Vatican’s efforts in the pandemic recovery phase are all about responding to “the realities and struggles of the unemployed, migrants, refugees, etc.”, and that much “inspired by the preferential option for the poor” that is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine, Zampini said.

More on Novena on the post-COVID economic and social reconstruction:

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

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

Vatican official Augusto Zampini: COVID-19 “not God’s punishment, but our own self-punishment”

On COVID-19 rescue, Vatican official Augusto Zampini tells governments “don’t repeat the mistakes” of 2008 GFC bailouts


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