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Vaccine Access a Matter of Justice: Pope Francis

Pope Francis received the credential letters of seven new ambassadors to the Holy See on Dec. 17, 2021. Vatican Media

Pope Francis told ambassadors on Friday that it is a matter of justice that COVID-19 vaccines are made accessible to all.

“It is important that the international community intensifies its efforts of cooperation so that all people will have ready access to vaccines. This is not a matter of convenience or courtesy, but of justice,” Pope Francis said on Dec. 17.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The pope spoke at a presentation of new ambassadors to the Holy See from Chad, Namibia, Lesotho, Guinea-Bissau, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and Luxembourg in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

Among these countries, Luxembourg has 69% of its population fully vaccinated, while Chad has only 0.5% vaccinated and Guinea-Bissau has 1% vaccinated, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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The other African countries represented in the delegation, Lesotho and Namibia, also have relatively low vaccination rates with 30% and 15% of their populations vaccinated respectively.

The pope told the new ambassadors that the reality of the ongoing pandemic is a reminder that “we are a global community where one person’s problems are the problems of all.”

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“In particular, it is my sincere hope that through this experience the international community will come to a greater realization of the fact that we are one human family; each of us is responsible for our brothers and sisters, none excluded,” he said.

“This is a truth that should compel us to confront not only the current health crisis, but all the problems plaguing humanity and our common home - poverty, migration, terrorism, climate change, to name a few – in a solidary way and not in isolation.”

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Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Pope Francis has repeatedly encouraged Catholics to be vaccinated. He said in a public service announcement produced in collaboration with the Ad Council in August that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is “an act of love.”

Last year, the pope promoted the fair distribution of vaccines throughout the world in a Christmas message on Dec. 25.

In his speech to the ambassadors, Pope Francis recalled that one year ago “signs of hope were emerging on the horizon as the initial vaccines were about to be administered.”

“At the time, many believed that their arrival heralded a quick end to the pandemic,” he added.

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“While great progress has been made since then, we see a year later how COVID-19 is still causing pain and suffering, not to mention the loss of life.”

“Despite all of our medical and technological advances through the years, something microscopic – a seemingly insignificant object - has forever changed our world whether we fully realize it yet or not,” Francis said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The pope thanked the ambassadors for their work, which he acknowledged is often done without public recognition.

“You already understand what the world needs to learn from the pandemic: the need to cultivate relationships and facilitate mutual understanding with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds in order to work together for building a more just world,” he said.

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“The main instrument at your disposal for carrying out this task is dialogue.”