Pope Francis has urged world leaders to only give coronavirus bailouts to companies which protect the environment and help the needy.
The 83-year-old pontiff said the pandemic has laid bare inequalities in the world, and it would be a ‘scandal’ if leaders missed the opportunity to fix them.
As countries race to return to ‘normal’, Francis warned that ‘this “normality” must not include social injustices and degradation of the environment.’
‘Today we have an occasion to build something different. For example, we can grow an economy of integral development of the poor and not of welfare,’ he said.
Francis, who has dedicated much of his papacy to helping the disadvantaged, made the improvised remarks at the end of his weekly address on Wednesday.
He also urged wealthy countries not to hoard any coronavirus vaccine that is developed, and said it should instead be spread equally among nations.
He said: ‘It would be sad if the rich are given priority for the Covid-19 vaccine.
‘It would be sad if the vaccine becomes property of this or that nation, if it is not universal and for everyone.’
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that any nation which hoards possible COVID-19 vaccines while excluding others would deepen the pandemic.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has warned against ‘vaccine nationalism’, urged countries to join a global pact by an Aug. 31 deadline to share vaccine hopefuls with developing countries.
More than 150 vaccines are in development, about two dozen are in human studies and a handful are in late-stage trials.
While the pandemic has been a tragedy for many, Francis said it also provides the opportunity to remake a better world.
The pandemic is a crisis. You don’t come out of it the same – either better or worse,’ he said. ‘We must come out of it better.
‘The pandemic has laid bare the difficult situation of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world.
‘And the virus, while it doesn’t make exceptions among persons, has found in its path, devastating, great inequalities and discrimination, and it has increased them.’
Throughout the pandemic, many poor, who often have jobs that don’t allow them to work from home, have found themselves less able to shelter from possible contagion during stay-at-home orders.
Access to healthcare has also hit the poorest hardest, even in developed countries, as public systems were stretched thin during the worst of the initial outbreak.
Francis said response to the pandemic must be twofold.
On one hand, ‘it is indispensable to find the cure for such a small but tremendous virus, that brings the entire world to its knees.’
On the other hand, he said, ‘we must treat a great virus, that of social injustice, of inequality of opportunity, of being marginalized and of lack of protection of the weakest.’
More than 21.9 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 772,647 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
‘The pandemic is a crisis and one never exits from a crisis returning to the way it was before,’ Francis said.
‘Either we leave better, or we leave worse. We have to leave better in order to tackle social injustices and environmental degradation.’
The pope’s audiences are still being held virtually from his official library inside the Vatican because of the pandemic instead of St. Peter’s Square, previously packed with tens of thousands of people.