Almost as soon as the pandemic was declared, Pope Francis established the Vatican COVID-19 Commission. He understood that we can either emerge from this once in a generation crisis better or worse. How we respond to the pandemic now can help to prepare a better future for us all. The Commission’s first annual report shares an enormous range of achievements.
The annual report describes how the Commission draws on expertise from local communities, global platforms, and academic experts. It addresses immediate suffering, and seeks to usher forth the transformation of hearts, minds and structures in order to prepare a better future for all. Despite having followed the five Working Groups of the Commission, I was surprised at the breadth and depth of the initiatives described in the annual report. You can access the annual report online here and explore the special section on the Covid-19 on the Dicastery’s website here.
The desire to get back to normal is understandable, but the pandemic has revealed deep problems in our society and our economy. For example, many people have had their first experience of reliance on our social security system and can now grasp the profound inadequacy of the support previously offered to those who are unemployed. Furthermore the transmission of the virus by low paid care workers and quarantine security guards has shone a spotlight on insecure and inadequate employment.
Pope Francis is calling us to use this crisis as an opportunity to build a new kind of society and economy. He invites us to imagine and to work for a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. We know that the planet cannot support our current patterns of production, consumption and disposal. We know that too many people are treated as disposable, unnecessary, unimportant or unwanted. Now is the time to insist on change.
We are seeing too that our efforts to build back better – smarter, greener, kinder, and more inclusive – can change us as well as our world.
Already the Vatican’s customary way of doing things has been changed by the Commission. The Commission reports directly to the Pope and is housed within the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. The leadership of the five Working Groups is drawn from across a range of different dicasteries and partners. This collaborative, interdicasterial design recognises the interconnectedness of all of the relevant systems. It can also be seen as modelling a culture of encounter, care, collective action and responsibility.
As the Plenary Council begins deliberation on our response to what God is asking of us in Australia today, we too may be called to imagine new ways of being church in and for the world. We are being called to be transformed and transformative.
Dr Sandie Cornish Social Justice Officer