"This epidemic is nobody’s fault but becomes everyone’s task"
St Peter’s square in Rome last night looked empty but was more crowded than ever. From all over the world people joined Pope Francis for a time of reflection and prayer with the help of their smartphones, tablets and television sets. Physically we were separated but we all felt a sense of solidarity and belonging stronger than ever before. Pope Francis gave words to the feelings of all of us when he acknowledged that
“like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us’.
Most of the tragedies that plague our world tend to afflict the poorest and the weakest. One of the worst epidemics of the past decade, Ebola, decimated mostly African people and felt totally remote to most of us. Our western countries have started to experience some dire consequences of climate change, but most of us simply hears about them on the news – so that those who want to escape solidarity and responsibility can do so without suffering any immediate negative impact on their lives.
With the present pandemic however this is not possible any more. The virus is proving remarkably egalitarian, affecting everyone, infecting even our world leaders. Echoing Pope Francis’ words, in an article published on The Atlantic Ed Yong states that
“Pandemic are democratizing experiences. People whose privilege and power would normally shield them from a crisis are facing quarantines, testing positive, and losing loved ones”.
Yes, we have realized that we are on the same boat, not only because we are all threatened in the same way, but especially because, more than ever before, we can overcome this crisis only if we all unite our efforts, if we all think not only about ourselves but about others as well.
This epidemic is nobody’s fault but becomes everyone’s task.
Just as fires, earthquakes, and tsunamis, epidemics just happen and trying to attribute them to anyone, God included, is pointless and irresponsible. Pope Francis said this powerfully: the epidemic is not the result of God’s judgment but a call to our judgment, that is to our ability to make considerate decisions. More than ever, this is a time for understanding that we are in this together and that the only way out is together. And we can all agree that this is not a bad thing – at all.