In a wide-ranging interview with the British Catholic publication, the Tablet, Pope Francis suggested that the coronavirus pandemic could be a clarion call to better environmental awareness and an economy less dependent on production.
In the question-and-answer, on the mission of the church amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Pope said he believed the coronavirus crisis is similar to recent forest fires and destructive floods in that it could be “nature’s response” to human mistreatment of the natural world.
“There is an expression in Spanish: ‘God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives,’” the Pope told the Tablet.
The pandemic is a global wake-up call, he suggested.
“Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted?” he continued. “Who speaks now of the floods? I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.”
The Pope has been an outspoken advocate for action on the subject of climate change, even making environmental stewardship the subject of one of his earliest Encyclicals, instructing that proper care for the natural world is a moral task.
The message humanity should take from the coronavirus pandemic, he seems to say, is that nature has power that should be respected.
“This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it,” the Pope told the outlet.
As usual, the Pope also took the opportunity to suggest that world leaders consider a more distributive economy, which focuses more on human capital than production itself, particularly of “weapons.”
“This crisis is affecting us all, rich and poor alike, and putting a spotlight on hypocrisy. I am worried by the hypocrisy of certain political personalities who speak of facing up to the crisis, of the problem of hunger in the world, but who in the meantime manufacture weapons,” the Pope said. “This is a time to be converted from this kind of functional hypocrisy. It’s a time for integrity. Either we are coherent with our beliefs or we lose everything.”
The Pope also stressed the benefits of a stalled economy, though seemingly without consideration for the long-term effects of the global shutdown.
“Every crisis contains both danger and opportunity: the opportunity to move out from the danger. Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption,” the Pope said, referring to his own writings. “Yes, I see early signs of an economy that is less liquid, more human. But let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were.”
The Vatican is continuing to operate amid the coronavirus crisis, though with a skeleton crew that is practicing strict social distancing. For the first time in recent history, the Pope will celebrate much of the Holy Week alone and there will be no public audience for Easter Sunday Mass at the Vatican.