Pope Francis’ agenda for a better world, after COVID

What will the post-COVID-19 world look like? Pope Francis has been thinking about this question for a long time – since early morning, in fact. Almost two years ago, he gave an extraordinary series of post-COVID-19 speeches, in which he laid out the principles necessary to stabilize global society and the global economy. when the disease recedes. Soon after, in October 2020, he published his prophetic encyclical Fratelli Tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship) under the clouds of disease increasing tensions, anxieties, and dislocations.

The lessons of history tell us that diseases leave a deep mark, and not for good. Perhaps the best historical comparison is with the Spanish flu of 1918 to 1920, almost 100 years ago. With little understanding of how diseases work, this disease is devastating. It has killed 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 in the United States — about one in every 150 people, more deaths than COVID-19.

Murder on such a large scale has serious social and psychological consequences. And it is true.

The first thing to note is that the Spanish flu has almost been erased from history. No one talked about it, and everyone wanted to forget about it. President Woodrow Wilson was not famous for telling the public. Part of it was strategic—he was concerned about maintaining morale during the war. But part of it is a desire to forget too much, a desire to enjoy the moment and leave painful memories behind. The lesson seems to be: If life is difficult, then life should be lived to the fullest. Thus, the first great epidemic of this era gave way to the Roaring Twenties.

This was an economic era—consumption rose after technological advances, especially electrification; Consumer prices and prices have risen dramatically; and the new sales team has started. It has never been seen again to this day. Political leaders were greeted by what they saw as the incredible power of the free market.


This was also a time of social flux, as those who accepted a more relaxed lifestyle – perhaps even more libertine. This was the era of jazz music, the emergence of mass entertainment in the form of radio and motion pictures, and the bawdy culture of language. An era characterized by the bacchanal glamor mentioned in The great gatsby.

As Financial Times According to the historian Martin Sandbu, “One of the deadliest diseases in history, after one of its deadliest battles, was given a decade named for its departure from economics and social change – a decade of consumerism and frothy financial markets, new music, art and fashion, self-education and embracing to freedom.

All of this is understood in light of the country’s recent collective suffering.

But there was a dark side to the Roaring Twenties. The experience of a cancer is very much blamed on each other. Perhaps it is no coincidence that racism, xenophobia, and insularity have reared their ugly heads in recent years. The Ku Klux Klan—targeting Blacks, Jews, Catholics, and immigrants—boasts a million members. Racial violence and discrimination are common. The Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racist violence in modern history, took place in 1921, on the heels of the Spanish flu. Anti-immigrant sentiment has also risen. The Immigration Act of 1924 imposed one of the draconian curbs on new entrants in history, banning entrants from Asia and reducing immigration by 80 percent since the pre-World War I period.

The strange thing about this era is the way it is viewed today—its debt-eating, its technocracy, its inequality, its glorification of the market, its cult of the Instant gratification, his myopia, and his xenophobia. The question for us is: Will we go the same way after COVID-19, or will we make healthier choices? This is the question that Pope Francis asked back in 2020.

In Fratelli Tutti Pope Francis criticizes what he calls myopic, extremist, aggressive, and nationalism; the rise of hyperbole, extremism, and polarization in politics; the fading of multilateralism; a dangerous world of conflict and fear; a culture of fences, characterized by the lack of hospitality shown to immigrants and refugees at the border; the firm control of the economic and financial interests of the trust for its own benefit; a crime against nature; and the deification of the market, leading to an economy of exclusion, a world of apathy, and a world of throwaways. All this is far from the thing Fratelli Tutti is calling – an “open world” marked by international relations and solidarity.

How does cancer affect this symptom of current illnesses? Will it improve or improve? For Pope Francis, the jury is out. On the one hand, he noted, “The Covid-19 pandemic has revived the idea that we are a global community, in one ship, where the problems of one person are the problems of all.” He explains that the virus made us realize that trust in the market is not enough to protect us. But he said we should heed the lessons of history. “In the face of this health crisis,” he said, “our best response is to engage deeply with the patient and new ways of caring. God, after all this, we no longer think about what ‘them’ and ‘things’ mean, but only us. If this is not another tragedy of history we have don’t learn.”

In his post-COVID-19 sermons, Pope Francis explained how to learn the lessons of history. He immediately appeals to some of the fundamental principles of Catholic social teaching – principles such as the common good, the universality of goods, the election of the poor, solidarity, charity, and care for our common home. Using the analogy of a disease, he says that we need to build antibodies against the twin diseases of apathy and individualism, where apathy looks the other way, and individualism is focusing only on one’s own interests, without regard for the needs of others. . Continuing this analogy, he calls COVID-19 a “small but dangerous virus” but focuses on a “big virus,” characterized by social injustice, inequality , marginalization, and environmental degradation. The bottom line is, we’re either going to come out of it well or out of it. But he insisted, “we have to come out of it better, against social injustice and environmental damage. Today, we have an opportunity to build something different.”

A century ago, we had the opportunity to build something different. The world has emerged from a terrible war and a devastating epidemic. But our ancestors could not choose wisely. Can we choose a better way now? The answer to that question may lie in whether we take seriously the principles of Catholic social teaching.

Image: Office of the President of the United States (Public domain)

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