The audience began with a reading in several languages from Matthew 15:32-37, a passage known as the Feeding of the Four Thousand, in which Jesus feeds the multitude with seven loaves and a few fish.
“The crisis we are living due to the pandemic is affecting everyone; we will emerge from it for the better if we all seek the common good together,” the pope said, according to an unofficial translation provided by the Holy See press office.
Sadly, however, “partisan interests” were emerging.
“For example, some would like to appropriate possible solutions for themselves, as in the case of vaccines, to then sell them to others. Some are taking advantage of the situation to instigate divisions: by seeking economic or political advantages, generating or exacerbating conflicts. Others simply are not interesting themselves in the suffering of others, they pass by and go their own way. They are the devotees of Pontius Pilate, washing their hands of others’ suffering,” he said.
In contrast, the Christian response to the pandemic and resulting socio-economic crisis should be rooted in the love of God, which enables people even to seek the good of their enemies.
“Certainly, to love everyone, including enemies, is difficult -- I would say it is even an art! But an art that can be learned and improved. True love that makes us fruitful and free is always expansive, and love is not only expansive, it is inclusive. This love cares, heals and does good,” the pope said.
Christian love also extends to civil and political relationships, he explained, as well as our relationship with nature.
“Since we are social and political beings, one of the highest expressions of love is specifically social and political which is decisive to human development and in order to face any type of crisis,” he said.
“We know that love makes families and friendships flourish; but it is good to remember that it also makes social, cultural, economic and political relationships flourish, allowing us to construct a ‘civilization of love,’ as St. Paul VI used to love to say and, in turn, St. John Paul II. Without this inspiration, the egotistical, indifferent, throw-away culture prevails.”
Pope Francis told pilgrims that when he arrived for the audience he spoke to a married couple who asked for his prayers because they had a disabled child. He said that they had dedicated their whole lives to their son and suggested that they were an example of the love that we must show to all, including our political adversaries.
“The coronavirus is showing us that each person’s true good is a common good, not only individual, and, vice versa, the common good is a true good for the person. If a person only seeks his or her own good, that person is egotistical. Instead, the person is kinder, nobler, when his or her own good is open to everyone, when it is shared,” he said.
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“Health, in addition to being an individual good, is also a public good. A healthy society is one that takes care of everyone’s health, of all.”
The pope said that love can help to build new social structures marked by creativity, trust and solidarity.
“Conversely, if the solutions for the pandemic bear the imprint of egoism, whether it be by persons, businesses or nations, we may perhaps emerge from the coronavirus crisis, but certainly not from the human and social crisis that the virus has brought to light and accentuated,” the pope observed.
He added that a just and peaceful society could only be built upon the rock of the common good.
“And this is everyone’s task, not only that of a few specialists,” he said. “St. Thomas Aquinas used to say that the promotion of the common good is a duty of justice that falls on each citizen. Every citizen is responsible for the common good. And for Christians, it is also a mission. As St. Ignatius of Loyola taught, to direct our daily efforts toward the common good is a way of receiving and spreading God’s glory.”
He suggested that, while politics has a bad reputation, a good politics that puts the human person and the common good at its center is still possible. Christians can demonstrate this by exercising the virtue of charity, which has an “intrinsic social dimension.”