VATICAN CITY — The COVID-19 pandemic calls for an urgent reality check against baseless information and for increased efforts so everyone has access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostic tools, Pope Francis told diplomats from around the world.
He urged people to recognize the effectiveness and importance of immunizing as many people as possible as part of fighting the pandemic, which he called a “grave moment in the life of humanity.”
“Vaccines are not a magical means of healing, yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease,” the pope told ambassadors from the 183 countries that have diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
At his annual meeting with the diplomatic corps Jan. 10, the pope also told them that facing today’s challenges “will require humanity to join together as one great family that, starting from different viewpoints, should prove capable of finding common solutions for the good of all.”
The pope highlighted his hopes and concerns regarding the state of the world, ongoing wars and violence, the arms trade, today’s “cancel culture,” the treatment of migrants, the importance of increased funding for education and the need to step up efforts for universal vaccinations for COVID-19.
He told the ambassadors the fight against the pandemic still calls for “significant effort” by everyone — on a personal, political and international level.
Effective vaccination campaigns have decreased the risk of the “severe repercussions of the disease,” he said. “It is therefore important to continue the effort to immunize the general population as much as possible.”
People have a duty to care for themselves and their health, which includes “respect for the health of those around us,” he said. But “sadly we are finding increasingly that we live in a world of strong ideological divides” where people let themselves be influenced by ideologies built upon “baseless information or poorly documented facts.”
Governments can help by engaging citizens more and fostering constructive discussion, he said. “The lack of resolute decision-making and clear communication generates confusion, creates mistrust and undermines social cohesion, fueling new tensions. The result is a ‘social relativism’ detrimental to harmony and unity.”
Another area of concern, he said, is the field of multilateral diplomacy, which is undergoing “a crisis of trust” due to the reduced credibility of many institutions.
When social or governmental agencies make important resolutions or decisions “without a genuine process of negotiation in which all countries have a say,” the imbalance generates disaffection toward these groups and makes them “less and less effective in confronting global challenges,” he said.
The pope criticized a “form of ideological colonization” that “leaves no room for freedom of expression.” He said it “is now taking the form of the ‘cancel culture’ invading many circles and public institutions.”
“Under the guise of defending diversity, it ends up canceling all sense of identity, with the risk of silencing positions that defend a respectful and balanced understanding of various sensibilities,” he said.
Effective and respectful multilateral diplomacy is possible, he said, but it calls for mutual trust, the willingness to listen and share different views and to come to agreement and walk together.
He told the diplomatic corps these conflicts are worsened by the abundance and ready availability of weapons. “We deceive ourselves into thinking that these weapons serve to dissuade potential aggressors.”
The pope thanked those who work to ensure that migrants “are welcomed and protected, and to support their human promotion and integration in the countries that have received them.”
“The issue of migration, together with the pandemic and climate change, has clearly demonstrated that we cannot be saved alone and by ourselves,” he said, calling for people to recover “our sense of shared identity as a single human family.”