The COVID-19 pandemic “is teaching us that no one can do it on their own: a shared and coordinated response is needed to deal with the virus”, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has insisted.

“The priority is not the economy, as such, but the human being”

“The priority is not the economy, as such, but the human being”, the cardinal explained in an interview August 27 on the website of the economic and social thinktank Riparte L’Italia.

“COVID-19 has not only caused a health crisis, but has also affected many aspects of human life: family, politics, work, business, commerce, tourism, etc.”, Parolin continued, pointing out that the global nature of the pandemic “is constantly reminding us of Pope Francis’ observation that ‘everything is connected'”.

According to the Vatican Secretary of State, “if all governments have been forced to take drastic measures to the point of stopping so many economic activities to fight the pandemic, it means that the priority is not the economy, but the person”.

“This means, first of all, taking care of health”, the cardinal explained.

“However, the Church’s social doctrine, which has its roots in Christian anthropology, reminds us that one cannot limit oneself to caring only for the health of the body. We must care for the integrity of the human person, which must be, therefore, the priority of political and economic commitment, in an ethic of shared responsibility in the Common Home”.

“Consequently,” the cardinal went on, “the Church invites us to rediscover the vocation of the economy at the service of the human person, in order to guarantee each person the conditions necessary for integral human development and a life of dignity”.

Now is the time for “friendship and goodwill instead of hatred and fear”

For Cardinal Parolin, “it is necessary to highlight… some dangers that have appeared in the fight against the pandemic, such as the prevalence of anthropological reductionist approaches that, focused on bodily health, risk considering the spiritual dimensions as insignificant”.

“In the dramatic emergency situation that we have experienced, the limits of an interpretation of health issues according to exclusively technical paradigms have been revealed. Certain basic needs have been denied, making it difficult to bring relatives close to and to provide spiritual accompaniment to the sick and dying, for example. This requires a deeper reflection on the many questions that the pandemic has posed to us”.

The Vatican Secretary of State continued by saying that the pandemic “has revealed both our interdependence and our common weakness, our shared fragility”.

“When the logic of nuclear deterrence dominated, St John XXIII, in Pacem in Terris, stressed the interdependence between political communities: no political community today can pursue its interests and develop by closing in on itself.

“And Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato si’, stressed that interdependence obliges us to think of a single world, a common project.

And yet again, “John Paul II recalled in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis that today we are faced with a technological, social and political interdependence that urgently requires an ethic of solidarity”, Cardinal Parolin recalled.

However, despite the constant papal emphasis on the need for an ethic of solidarity and “instead of fostering cooperation for the universal common good”, the cardinal decried that today “we are seeing more and more walls being erected around us: the exaltation of borders as a guarantee of security and systematic violations of the law [are] maintaining a situation of permanent global conflict”.

But, for the cardinal, COVID-19 is teaching us nothing if it is not showing us that now is the time in which “we must sow friendship and goodwill instead of hatred and fear”.

“Moreover, planetary interdependence requires global responses to local problems… because the globalisation of hope must replace the globalisation of exclusion and indifference”, the cardinal stressed.

The pandemic has rocked the economic and social system

Today, “the pandemic is rocking the entire economic and social system and its presumed certainties, at all levels”, Cardinal Parolin affirmed.

“The problems of unemployment are and will be dramatic, the problems of public health require the revolution of entire health and education systems, and the role of States and the relations between nations are changing.

“The Church feels called to accompany the complicated path that is presented to us all as a human family”, and “she must do so with humility and wisdom, but also with creativity”, Parolin stressed.

For the cardinal, in sum, “there are solid principles of reference” for the post-COVID-19 reconstruction in the Church’s social doctrine, “but today courageous creativity is even more necessary, so that the dramatic crisis of the pandemic does not finish up as a terrible tragedy, but rather opens spaces for the human and ecological conversion that humanity needs”.

(With reporting by Vatican News)

On Novena, more Church contributions to the COVID-19 reconstruction:

Cardinal Turkson invites humanity to “recraft and relaunch” economy, society post-COVID-19

New encyclical on need for “human and ecological conversion”, “human fraternity” to drop in weeks: report

Vatican, World Council of Churches urge humanity to “daring and caring” to heal post-COVID-19 world

26/8: In General Audience, Pope deplores “sick” economy, “the fruit of unequal growth that disregards fundamental human values”


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