In the period to follow the coronavirus pandemic, people should remember they are made for communion with others and with God, Pope Francis said Saturday.
“Now more than ever the claim to focus everything on ourselves is illusory – to make individualism the guiding principle of society has proved to be illusory,” Francis said June 20.
In a speech to health and emergency workers from northern Italy – the part of the country worst-affected by COVID-19 – Pope Francis warned that after the pandemic, it will be easy “to fall back into this illusion.”
“It is easy to quickly forget that we need others, someone who takes care of us, who gives us courage. Forgetting that we all need a Father who holds out his hand.”
Praying to God the Father, invoking him, “is not an illusion,” he stated. “Illusion is to think of doing without it!”
“Prayer is the soul of hope,” he added.
The pope said following the tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic, Catholics must look to the future with the commitment to rebuild on a foundation of love.
“In this way, we will be able to get out of this crisis spiritually and morally stronger; and this depends on the conscience and responsibility of each of us,” he stated. “Not alone, however, but together and with the grace of God.”
Pope Francis spoke to the group of doctors, nurses, health workers, clerics, civil authorities, and representatives of the mountain infantry from the Italian region of Lombardy in an audience at the Vatican.
Also present at the meeting were priests and consecrated men and women from north Italy, and representatives from Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital, where COVID-19 patients are still receiving treatment.
During the coronavirus emergency, doctors, nurses, and other medical workers “have been a visible sign of humanity that warms the heart,” the pope said.
He thanked them for their many sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families throughout the pandemic.
Francis also noted that because of their work, many healthcare workers got sick themselves, or even died. “We remember them in prayer and with such gratitude.”
The pope also remembered priests who have died in the health crisis and praised the creativity of priests who found ways to stay close to their communities when public liturgical celebrations were not permitted.
Pope Francis compared this response with a different response to the health measures, which he characterized as “adolescent.”
Most priests “were obedient and creative,” he argued. “They were fathers, not adolescents.”
He noted that while unable to attend public Mass, many people “prayed individually or in the family, also through the means of social communication, spiritually united and perceiving that the embrace of the Lord went beyond the limits of space.”
“The pastoral zeal and creative concern of the priests helped people to continue the path of faith and not to remain alone in the face of pain and fear,” he said.