Pope says older people ‘cruelly abandoned’ to Covid-19

Pope Francis hopes deaths may not be ‘tragedy from which we learn nothing’

Pope Francis leads his Sunday prayer from  his office overlooking Saint Peter’s Square.  Photograph: EPA/Riccardo Antimiani

Pope Francis leads his Sunday prayer from his office overlooking Saint Peter’s Square. Photograph: EPA/Riccardo Antimiani

 

The deaths of so many elderly people in the Covid-19 pandemic has been criticised by Pope Francis in his third encyclical, published on Sunday.

“They did not have to die that way. Yet something similar had long been occurring during heatwaves and in other situations: older people found themselves cruelly abandoned,” he said.

In Ireland approximately 53 per cent of those who have died with Covid-19 were elderly.

Pope Francis hoped such deaths “may prove not to be just another tragedy of history from which we learned nothing” and that we might remember in particular “all those elderly persons who died for lack of respirators, partly as a result of the dismantling, year after year, of healthcare systems”.

By “isolating the elderly and leaving them in the care of others without the closeness and concern of family members, we disfigure and impoverish the family itself”, he said, adding that it deprived “young people of a necessary connection to their roots and a wisdom that the young cannot achieve on their own”.

On the rise of “instances of a myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism” world-wide, he said that “in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarisation have become political tools. Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion”.

Political life “no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others”, he said.

Racism

There were those “vicious attitudes that we thought long past, such as racism, which retreats underground only to keep re-emerging. Instances of racism continue to shame us”, he said, while “certain populist political regimes, as well as certain liberal economic approaches, maintain that an influx of migrants is to be prevented at all costs. For Christians, this way of thinking and acting is unacceptable”.

It bred “a kind of ‘local’ narcissism unrelated to a healthy love of one’s own people and culture. It is born of a certain insecurity and fear of the other that leads to rejection and the desire to erect walls for self-defence”, he said.

He warned against “destructive forms of fanaticism” which can also be “found among religious believers, including Christians”. Even “in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace, and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned”.

On war he said it was “very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war’. Never again war!”

Concerning the death penalty he said “the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide” but Christians were also called “to work for the improvement of prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their freedom. I would link this to life imprisonment . . . A life sentence is a secret death penalty.”

Fratelli Tutti (Brothers All), follows his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, which addressed the global climate crisis, and Lumen Fidei in 2013, which celebrated the Christian faith and was co-written with retired Pope Benedict XVI.