“The ancestral fear of contagion has once again struck hard. We have also shared the distressing concerns of entire families who do not know what to put on their plates the following week.”
Faced with this suffering, the pope said, priests experienced a sense of vulnerability and helplessness.
“The unpredictability of the situation highlighted our inability to live with and face the unknown, which we cannot govern or control, and like everyone else, we felt confused, frightened, helpless,” he wrote.
Clergy were unable to serve the people in the way they had become accustomed to, the pope noted.
“The complexity of what had to be faced did not allow for ‘recipes’ or textbook answers; it required much more than easy exhortations or edifying speeches, incapable of taking root and consciously taking on everything that concrete life demanded of us,” he said.
“The pain of our people hurt us, their uncertainties afflicted us, our common fragility stripped us of any false idealistic or spiritualistic complacency, as well as any attempt at puritanical escape.”
Pope Francis suggested that the coronavirus crisis had shaken society’s most basic assumptions.
“The narrative of a society of prophylaxis, imperturbable and always ready for indefinite consumption, has been questioned, revealing the lack of cultural and spiritual immunity to conflict,” he wrote.
The pandemic posed urgent questions, he said, and they could not be answered simply by resuming activities put on hold during the lockdown.
He wrote that “it will be indispensable to develop a way of listening which is attentive but full of hope, serene but tenacious, constant but not anxious, which can prepare and pave the way for the Lord’s call to us.”
He urged priests to resist the temptation to withdraw into “brooding” over the devastation wrought by the pandemic, as well as the trap of an “unlimited optimism” that refused to accept the true extent of the damage.
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He wrote: “There are many temptations, typical of this time, that can blind us and make us cultivate certain feelings and attitudes that do not allow hope to stimulate our creativity, our ingenuity and our ability to respond.”
“From wanting to honestly take on board the gravity of the situation, but trying to resolve it only with substitute or palliative activities, waiting for everything to return to ‘normal,’ ignoring the deep wounds and the number of people who have fallen in the meantime; until we are immersed in a certain paralyzing nostalgia for the recent past that makes us say ‘nothing will ever be the same again’ and makes us incapable of inviting others to dream of and develop new ways and styles of life.”
The pope encouraged clergy to fix their gaze on the Resurrection in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“If an invisible, silent, expansive and viral presence has put us in crisis and caused us upheaval, let this other discreet, respectful and non-invasive Presence call us again and teach us not to be afraid to face reality,” he wrote.
“If an impalpable presence has been able to disrupt and overturn the priorities and seemingly irremovable global agendas that so suffocate and devastate our communities and our sister earth, let us not fear that it is the presence of the Risen One that traces our path, opens horizons and gives us the courage to live this historic and unique moment.”
Returning to the theme of Pentecost, he described the Apostles as “a handful of fearful men” who were nevertheless able to release “a new current” into the world.