06 March 2020
Message to the laity and families
Dear brothers and sisters,
The life that God has given us, the source of every other good, is precious and fragile at the same time. We experience this richness and this limitation each day, but especially when life is exposed to a threat to its spiritual and bodily dimensions, and to its individual and societal dimensions. At this time, we are catching a glimpse of a shadow which is rising over the horizon and which covers up some of the reflection of the divine life which shines forth in our life. The fear of falling into danger assails us, and our hearts become disquieted. But how can we forget the words of Jesus? He reassures us saying: “Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows!” (Mt 10:29b-31)
Human life has the greatest of worth in the eyes of God. If, in certain circumstances, something poses a hazard to the health and life of many men and women—and perhaps even to ours as well—we must not feel that we are alone in the face of this enemy. And so it has been in recent months, in which a new virus, capable of infecting entire groups and populations very quickly, is spreading throughout numerous parts of the world causing a contagious disease called COVID-19. In many people it brings only mild symptoms, while for others it causes much greater suffering and, in a very limited number of cases, it can even lead to death.
We are all called to face this international health emergency with seriousness, calm, and courage, readying ourselves for some sacrifices in our daily lifestyle for the common good: our good and the good of all. Each of us is called to do our own part, but we are not alone—we have the protection of God, who watches over each one of us with a Father’s love, and men and women who share with us the journey of life and solidarity in this present time and in what is to come. The Church also seeks to remain close to every COVID-19 patient, to their family and friends, to healthcare and public assistance personnel who care for these patients, and to researchers seeking a remedy for this pathology.
As the Dicastery appointed by the Holy Father for the pastoral care of the laity, of the family, and life, in this moment of difficulty we wish to express our closeness, love, and prayers for those affected by COVID-19 or those who feel threatened by this viral infection. To the laity who practice the profession of medicine, nurses, first responders, scientific researchers, and to all those committed to the alleviation of the suffering and anxiety provoked by the onset of this contagion and to discovering effective forms of treatment for this disease: we thank them for the generosity of their dedication and we encourage them to spend their best energies and the intellectual talents God has given them for this good cause.
We wish to direct our thoughts especially towards the families who, with love and a sense of great reasonability, are called to take charge of accompanying their members affected by COVID-19; or to care for the elderly who cannot leave their homes due to the risk of contagion, for those who are more vulnerable because of pre-existing illnesses, and for children who must stay home from school for health reasons. This is a heavy task especially for families who live in places in the world which are poor in economic resources and social assistance; but also for those families in which the husband, wife, or other family members risk losing their job because of the consequences the epidemic has on production, commerce, transport, education, and other civil activities.
In these difficult circumstances, the communion of love between spouses and with their parents and children is a most precious resource, for all of society and for each individual person at risk of experiencing isolation. Loneliness is a personal evil which, in cases of danger of contracting the illness, is added to the physical evil of the disease. “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Gn 1:18) The wise foresight of God the creator in thinking of the spousal relationship between man and woman also unfolds, in all its truth, in this situation caused by the spread of an infection which is debilitating for the afflicted and for the social relationship between all citizens. Truly in these circumstances, the family can become a resource, a driving and sustaining force in everyone’s sense of responsibility, in their sense of solidarity, in their sense of strength and prudence, and in their sense of sharing and reciprocal help in difficulty.
The Dicastery joins Pope Francis, who expresses his “closeness to those suffering from the coronavirus and the healthcare workers who care for them, as well as the civil authorities and those who are dedicated to assisting patients and to stopping the contagion.” (General audience, 26 February 2020) And we embrace each one of you, dearest laity and families, with the sign of unity and peace between all men, that of the Cross of Our Lord.