Pope Francis prays before the crucifix in St Marcelo church on the Via del Corso, Rome Pope Francis prays before the crucifix in St Marcelo church on the Via del Corso, Rome 

Pope Francis on facing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic

In an interview with the Italian daily newspaper, “La Repubblica”, Pope Francis says he is praying for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, and asks everyone to be close to those who have lost loved ones.

By Vatican News

"I asked the Lord to stop the epidemic: ‘Lord, stop it with your hand’. That is what I prayed for”. Pope Francis revealed the content of his prayer in an interview with Italian journalist, Paolo Rodari, published in Wednesday’s edition of “La Repubblica” newspaper. Pope Francis made this prayer when he visited the Roman churches of Saints Mary Major and Marcello on the Via del Corso last Sunday.

In the interview, Pope Francis offers advice about how to face the daily challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic: "We need to rediscover the concreteness of small things, the small acts of kindness shown to those who are close to us, family, friends. We need to realize that our treasure lies in small things. There are tiny gestures that sometimes get lost in the routine of everyday life, gestures of tenderness, affection, compassion, that are nevertheless decisive, important”, he says. The Pope gives the examples of sharing “a hot plate of food, a caress, a hug, a phone call... These are familiar, attentive gestures regarding everyday details that make life meaningful, and create communion and communication amongst us".

Pope Francis observes that many time communication is only “virtual”. “Instead we should discover a new closeness”, he says. “Real relationships made of attentiveness and patience”. The Pope describes how some families eat together at home in silence – not because they are listening to one another, but because “the parents are watching television while they eat, and their children are on their mobile phones”. Pope Francis describes this kind of family as “monks isolated from one another”. There is no communication here, he says. “Instead, listening to one another is important because we understand one another's needs, struggles, desires”. “There is a language made of concrete gestures that must be safeguarded”, continues the Pope. The suffering people are enduring at this time should make us open to this language.

In the interview, Pope Francis expresses his appreciation for healthcare personnel and volunteers. He thanks those who dedicate themselves to helping others in this way, and describes them as “an example” of the concreteness of small acts of kindness. The Pope invites “everyone to be close to those who have lost loved ones, to try to accompany them in every way possible”. We must all be dedicated to consoling others, he adds. Pope Francis mentions that he was particularly struck by an article he read recently. In it, the author indicates how "our behaviour always affects others’ lives". The example cited was that of how not paying our taxes, leads to lack of healthcare services.

Finally, Pope Francis invites everyone to hope — even those who do not believe. "We are all children of God, and He watches over us”, says the Pope. “Even those who have not yet met God, those who do not have the gift of faith, can find their way through the good things that they believe in. They can find strength in their love for their children, their family, their brothers and sisters. Someone might say: ‘I cannot pray because I do not believe’. But at the same time”, concludes Pope Francis, “we can believe in the love of the people we have around us, and there we can find hope".

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18 March 2020, 11:02