A potential coronavirus vaccine should be made available to all, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.
“It would be sad if, for the vaccine for COVID-19, priority were to be given to the richest! It would be sad if this vaccine were to become the property of this nation or another, rather than universal and for all,” Pope Francis said Aug. 19.
The pope’s comments followed a warning by the head of the World Health Organization Tuesday that some countries may hoard vaccines.
Speaking in Geneva Aug. 18, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appealed to world leaders to avoid what he called “vaccine nationalism.”
In his address, the pope also said it would be a “scandal” if public money were used to bail out industries “that do not contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, the promotion of the least, the common good, or the care of creation.”
He said that governments should only help industries that met all four criteria.
The pope was speaking in the library of the Apostolic Palace, where he has held his general audiences since the coronavirus pandemic struck Italy in March.
His reflection was the third installment in a new series of catechetical talks on Catholic social teaching, which he began earlier this month.
Introducing the new cycle of catechesis Aug. 5, the Pope said: “In the coming weeks, I invite you to tackle together the pressing issues that the pandemic has highlighted, especially social diseases.”
“And we will do it in the light of the Gospel, the theological virtues, and the principles of the Church’s social doctrine. We will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious diseases.”
The pope called for a twofold response to the virus.
“On the one hand, it is essential to find a cure for this small but terrible virus, which has brought the whole world to its knees. On the other, we must also cure a larger virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalization, and the lack of protection for the weakest,” the pope said, according to an unofficial working translation provided by the Holy See press office.
“In this dual response for healing there is a choice that, according to the Gospel, cannot be lacking: the preferential option for the poor. And this is not a political option; nor is it an ideological option, a party option… no. The preferential option for the poor is at the center of the Gospel. And the first to do this was Jesus.”