By Robin Gomes
At a time when the pandemic has roiled the social, economic and spiritual fabric of society, Pope Francis hopes that advances in science and technology will help create a more equitable and inclusive society, where the neediest and most vulnerable are given preference.
“How wonderful it would be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation could come along with more equality and social inclusion,” the Pope said. “How wonderful would it be, even as we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters who orbit around us!” he said, citing from his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, on fraternity and social friendship, released on Sunday.
The Pope made the remark in a message to the plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences which began on Wednesday.
The 7-9 October virtual meeting is focusing on the notion of science at the service of people for the survival of humanity, in light of the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic and other global issues.
In his message, the Pope noted that despite “all our hyper-connectivity”, the pandemic has laid bare not only “our false securities” but also the “inability of the world’s countries to work together” to resolve problems that affect us all.
The virus, he pointed out, is not only affecting peoples’ health but also the entire social, economic and spiritual fabric of society. It is paralyzing human relationships, work, manufacturing, trade and even many spiritual activities.
Starting with the least
The impact of the crisis on the world’s poor is great, the Pope said. “For many of them, the question is indeed one of survival itself.”
With great numbers of children unable to return to school, he said, there is the risk of an increase in child labour, exploitation, abuse and malnutrition.
“The needs of the poorer members of our human family,” the Holy Father said, “cry out for equitable solutions on the part of governments and all decision makers.”
Healthcare systems need to become much more inclusive and accessible to the disadvantaged and those living in low-income countries. “If anyone should be given preference,” the Pope said, “let it be the neediest and most vulnerable among us.” And when vaccines are available, there should be equitable access to them regardless of income, always starting with the least.
In his message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis also addressed issues of global warming, the ecological crisis and the dramatic loss of biodiversity in the context of the pandemic.
He said this moment of crisis is a summons to the human family to repent and undertake an ecological conversion.
Weapons of mass destruction
Pope Francis also spoke about scenarios that could arise from experiments in the world’s advanced physics and biology laboratories. In this regard, he said, scientists, like politicians, also have a responsibility “to halt not only the manufacture, possession and use of nuclear weapons, but also the development of biological weapons, with their potential to devastate innocent civilians and indeed, entire peoples”.