When Pope Francis was 21, he became very sick with a flu that had him gasping for breath and totally dependent on his caretakers. He eventually recovered, but that illness "changed the way I saw life," and it now serves as an important reminder to him that only by taking care of each other can we make it through the global pandemic we're now experiencing, he writes in an op-ed for the New York Times.
The pontiff lauds the "saints next door"—i.e., the health care workers, clergy, and ordinary people now serving others and serving as "the antibodies to the virus of indifference." He also offers praise to nations that have gone above and beyond to try to keep their citizens safe, imposing strict restrictions and "acting decisively to protect health and to save lives."
But then there are the "exceptions." Francis doesn't mention the US by name, but he criticizes those countries that have "shrugged off the painful evidence of mounting deaths, with inevitable, grievous consequences." He also notes his incredulity on protests against restrictions, "as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom!" And, on the same day that the Supreme Court sided with religious groups over such COVID restrictions, the pope suggests the common good may be suffering in the name of these individual freedoms.
"To come out of this crisis better, we have to recover the knowledge that as a people we have a shared destination," he writes. "The pandemic has reminded us that no one is saved alone." Read his piece in its entirety here.
This article originally appeared on Newser: Pope Speaks on COVID, and What 'Changed the Way I Saw Life'