Pope Francis Makes Christmas Enchantment for Nations to Share Covid-19 Vaccines

ROME – Pope Francis on Friday called on leaders, businesses and international organizations to ensure that the most vulnerable and needy people have access to newly developed coronavirus vaccines.

Rather than speaking to the tens of thousands normally gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Francis gave his annual Christmas address in a grandiose room in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

In a year when the pandemic plunged the world into economic and social uncertainty, the Pope was just one of many Christian leaders and pastors around the world delivering big, weighty messages to a small personal audience.

Francis used his traditional Christmas address to argue that widespread suffering should compel people to reflect on their common humanity and apply these principles to dealing with vaccine introductions.

“We cannot allow the various forms of nationalism to be closed in to prevent us from living as the truly human family that we are,” said the Pope.

“Neither can we allow the virus of radical individualism to conquer us and make us indifferent to the suffering of other brothers and sisters,” he said. “I cannot put myself before others and let the law of the market and patents take precedence over the law of love and human health.”

Almost a quarter of the world’s population may not have access to a coronavirus vaccine until at least 2022, according to a study recently published in the British Medical Journal. The leaders of many poorer countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have said they are concerned that they will not be able to provide the vaccine to much of their population.

This year, Christians around the world have scaled back or reinterpreted Christmas traditions.

A choir concert was held at Notre-Dame in Paris, where a fire nearly destroyed the cathedral in 2019, but this season the annual French tradition took place without the usual audience.

Midnight mass at Westminster Cathedral in London is usually a festive affair of pomp and pageantry, but this year’s event has been scaled back as the service was streamed online rather than being attended in person.


Apr. 25, 2020, 4:08 pm ET

“In the darkness of this pandemic, so many of our comfortable assumptions are being shaken,” said Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster. “Here we celebrate Christmas without the greetings, hugs, kisses, and handshakes that usually fill this day.”

He said the pandemic had tested family ties and lamented that some people in nursing homes and hospitals who longed to see loved ones were “disappearing from loneliness.”

The Holy Land missed the thousands of pilgrims who normally flocked to Bethlehem to celebrate. A suspension of international flights and other restrictions resulted in few making it to the Church of the Nativity, which was built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was born.

Christmas Eve Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was subdued. The number of participants was limited to 25 percent or 500 people.

In the Vatican, Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter’s Basilica was postponed by two hours in order to comply with the Italian government’s curfew at 10 p.m.

The Pope traditionally uses his Christmas Day address to draw attention to the conflicts or natural disasters that have plagued the planet over the past year.

And he did it again on Friday, asking the world to remember the plight of so many in 2020 – from the Yazidis in Iraq to the Rohingya in Myanmar. He said it is the duty of every world citizen to end violence and alleviate suffering.

Francis said the world is facing a “moment in history marked by ecological crisis and serious economic and social imbalances, only made worse by the coronavirus pandemic”.

But it was the pandemic that shaped the world this year, and the pandemic that would allow humanity to really think about what global cooperation can achieve.

At the end of his address, bells rang and echoed in an empty St. Peter’s Square.

Elisabetta Povoledo reported from Rome and Marc Santora from London.

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