, 18 March, 2020 / 10:40 AM
While many are stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis says that there are many small acts of love and kindness one can do for others without leaving the house.
“We must rediscover the concreteness of little things, small gestures of attention we can offer those close to us, our family, our friends. We must understand that in small things lies our treasure,” Pope Francis said in an interview in an Italian newspaper published on March 18.
“For example, a hot meal, a caress, a hug, a phone call... They are familiar gestures of attention to the details of everyday life that make life meaningful and that create communion and communication among us,” the pope said.
Pope Francis said that the quarantine many people are living through right now provides a particular opportunity to grow in personal relationships at home, but this requires disconnecting from technology to spend quality time together.
“In their homes, families often eat together in great silence, but not as a result of listening to each other, rather because the parents watch television while they eat, and children are on their mobile phones,” he said. “Here there is no communication, whereas listening to each other is important because that’s how we can understand the needs, efforts, desires of the other.”
The pope also asked everyone to reach out to those who are alone or who have lost loved ones. “Consolation must not be everyone’s commitment,” he added.
In the interview with Italian journalist Paolo Rodari published in La Repubblica, Pope Francis explained what was on his mind when he made a short walking pilgrimage through the empty streets of Rome on Sunday to pray in front of a Marian icon in the Basilica of St. Mary Major and a crucifix in another church that had been used in prayer processions during the plagues in Rome’s history.
“I asked the Lord to stop the epidemic: ‘Lord, stop it with your hand.’ That’s what I prayed for,” he said.
Nearly 200,000 people have been infected by COVID-19, a respiratory illness that has been linked to the deaths of 7,954 people worldwide as of March 18, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Italy has been the hardest hit country outside of China with over 31,500 documented coronavirus cases, and 2,941 deaths, mostly in the north of the country.
Francis urged people to remember that one’s personal choices and actions have consequences for the lives of others.
The pope cited an article written by Italian journalist, Fabio Fazio, who said that people’s failure to pay their taxes in Italy has hurt the country’s ability to provide for all those who are sick.
“He [Fazio] is right, for example, when he says: ‘It has become evident that those who do not pay taxes do not only commit a felony but also a crime: if there are not enough hospital beds and artificial respirators, it is also their fault’. I was very impressed by this,’” Pope Francis said quoting the journalist.
Pope Francis also said that people can find strength in their families and in the love of the people around them, even if they do not yet have the gift of faith.
“They are all God's children and are looked upon by Him. Even those who have not yet met God, those who do not have the gift of faith, can find their way through this, in the good things they believe in: they can find strength in love for their children, for their family, for their brothers and sisters,” he said.
“During these difficult days we can find small, concrete gestures expressing closeness and concreteness towards the people closest to us, a caress for our grandparents, a kiss for our children, for the people we love. These are important, decisive gestures. If we live these days like this, they won't be wasted,” Pope Francis said.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa