By Devin Watkins
Two Vatican offices teamed up with the local Church to host a seminar entitled: “Latin America: Church, Pope Francis, and scenarios of the pandemic.”
Taking place on 19-20 November, the online event was organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and the Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM). It seeks to find ways to combat the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the people of the region by promoting solidarity.
Marginalized at the center
In his video message released on Thursday, Pope Francis thanked the organizers of the event, and expressed his hopes that it might inspire people to work to guarantee everyone a dignified life, especially those on the fringes of society.
“When I say ‘the marginalized’,” said the Pope, “I do not say it in the sense of giving alms to them, or as a gesture of beneficence. No, I mean they are our hermeneutical key.”
He said the Church must begin her reflections on the human peripheries, otherwise she errs.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified and highlighted even more the problems and socio-economic injustices which already gravely afflicted all of Latin America, and placed even more strain on the poor.”
Bearing the brunt
Pope Francis reflected on the difficult situations that many families face, especially those who cannot procure protection against the coronavirus, such as a house, water, and health products.
“Right now, I am thinking of our brothers and sisters who—besides bearing the impact of the pandemic—are witnessing with sadness that the ecosystem around them is in serious danger due to forest fires which are destroying vast areas of the Pantanal and Amazon rainforests, which are the lungs of Latin America and the world.”
Sharing our bread
The Pope acknowledged that the pandemic’s effects will be felt long after it ends, especially on the economy.
He urged seminar participants to focus their efforts on two hinges: “In the Kingdom of God, all have bread, and it remains in surplus. The organization of society is based on contribution, sharing, and distribution, not on possession, exclusion, and accumulation.”
Solidarity is love
Faced with the crisis, the Pope urged the Church in Latin America to pay attention to three T’s as indicators of people’s situation: “the lack of a roof (techo in Spanish), the lack of land (tierra), and the lack of work (trabajo).”
He said the people of the region can teach everyone to deal courageously with the crisis, and that it is possible to emerge from it better than before.
“The path of solidarity as justice is the best expression of love and closeness,” he said.
Unity overcomes conflict
Pope Francis then urged politicians and the Church to find solutions to the afflictions facing the people of Latin America.
“It would do us good,” he said, “to recall once more that unity is better than conflict.”
“I exhort you—propelled by the light of the Gospel—to continue to seek out al those who ask for help, together with all people of goodwill.”