In his Easter message, the president of Caritas Internationalis called on governments to ensure access to healthcare and social protections for all amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said it was time for world leaders to “rise to the challenge” to promote unity and shared responsibility.
“The pandemic is making the suffering of vulnerable people -- migrants and refugees, the elderly, the sick, the poor and unemployed -- even deeper. We urge our governments to ensure access to healthcare and social protection for everyone – particularly the most vulnerable,” Tagle wrote in an Easter message published on the Caritas Internationalis website.
“Can our governments admit that many of them got it wrong when they didn’t allow everyone to belong to the human family in a dignified way? Can our societies put aside economic concerns and show that they care for everyone without exception?” the cardinal asked.
Tagle said he saw signs of hope in changes that had occurred as a result of the pandemic, temporarily resolving certain global problems that previously had seemed insoluble.
“Changes that would have been unthinkable three months ago are actually happening: air quality has improved in a number of countries and warring parties in some others have called ceasefires,” he said.
“In the midst of loss, uncertainty and suffering, something incredible is happening: we are noticing the bonds which form our human family. Bonds that we previously took for granted or ignored.”
He continued: “As we live in isolation and we all become marginalized and vulnerable, the global suffering we are seeing has made it startlingly apparent to us that we need other people and other people need us too.”
“It is as though the stone that covers the tomb is slowly being rolled back to allow a light of recognition. This light heralds Easter and the Risen Christ.”
Tagle thanked the Caritas staff and volunteers who are taking care of those affected by the coronavirus in a coordinated global effort to aid the sick and the vulnerable.
Caritas Internationalis is the umbrella organization that coordinates and gathers 165 local Catholic charities all over the world. The Caritas network is overseen by the Vatican’s dicastery for Integral Human Development, which must act in coordination with the Secretariat of State.
“Death does not have the final say when you make space for hope,” Tagle said.
Aloysius John, the general secretary of Caritas Internationalis, met privately with Pope Francis April 4 to discuss the organization’s “strategy of charity” to provide assistance to people during the coronavirus emergency.
“Our main concern today is to prepare the poorer countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, to confront such a massive emergency due to a sudden outbreak of the pandemic,” John said.
The local Caritas in Rwanda used the diocesan radio to spread awareness before the first case of COVID-19 was documented in the country. Caritas Jerusalem has distributed food and supplies to Gaza and the West Bank. And in Venezuela the local Caritas has organized soup kitchens to feed the poor, the secretary general reported.
“The people on the move, the migrants, the asylum seekers and the displaced are also in highly unsafe conditions and are already affected by the loss of means of livelihood, precarious living conditions and also lack of basic needs. Caritas has a special concern for those living in the refugee and IDP camps, who are displaced,” he said.
Among the initiatives that Caritas has launched is a virtual platform to exchange scientific data on the pandemic. The platform is for internal use only, but the information shared on it is intended for broad sharing and consultation.
Cardinal Tagle said that there is an opportunity to slow down and “reflect deeply on what ‘Body of Christ’ means for each of us” as people celebrate Easter without the possibility of receiving Communion.
“In the darkness of this crisis, the light of Christ will shine. Jesus is truly risen! He will not die again. May Jesus rise for people around the world through our love!” he said.
“‘Caritas christi urget nos’ – the love of Christ urges us on (2 Corinthians 5:14). This love, seen in small and large gestures of hope and solidarity, is calling us to a new future and a new way of living. COVID-19 knows no borders but neither do faith, hope and love,” Tagle said.