People more important than the economy, pope says about COVID crisis

Pope Francis said that people are more important than the economy, as countries decide how quickly to reopen their countries from coronavirus lockdowns.

The 83-year-old pope made his comments, departing from a prepared script, at the first noon address from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square in three months on May 31 as Italy’s lockdown drew to an end.

“Healing people, not saving (money) to help the economy (is important), healing people, who are more important than the economy,” Pope Francis said.

“We people are temples of the Holy Spirit, the economy is not,” he said.

Pope Francis did not mention any countries. Many governments are deciding whether to reopen their economies to save jobs and living standards, or whether to maintain lockdowns until they are sure the virus is fully under control.

The pope’s words were met with applause by hundreds of people in the square, many of whom wore masks and kept several meters from each other. The square was reopened to the public last week. Normally tens of thousands attend on a Sunday.

The last time the pope delivered his message and blessing from the window was March 1, before Italy, where more than 33,000 people have died from the virus, imposed a lockdown. The last restrictions will be lifted on June 3.

Nuns react as Pope Francis leads the Regina Coeli prayer from his window for the first time in three months in the newly reopened St. Peter’s Square after months of closure due to an outbreak of the new coronavirus at the Vatican, May 3. (Photo by Remo Casilli/Reuters)

Pope Francis led the crowd in silent prayer for medical workers who lost their lives by helping others.

He said he hoped the world would come out of the crisis more united, rather than divided.

“People do not come out of a crisis like this the same as before. We will come out either better or worse than before. Let’s have the courage to emerge better than before in order to build the post-crisis period of the pandemic positively,” he said.

Divert funds

During the day before, Pope Francis urged politicians to divert funds spent on weapons to research to prevent another pandemic, as he led the largest gathering in the Vatican in nearly three months.

He was presiding over an outdoor prayer service with about 130 people, including many directly affected by the pandemic.

They prayed the rosary in the Vatican gardens as tens of thousands of people in about 50 Catholic shrines around the world joined in. A large screen in the gardens showed video links with about 25 locations.

Pope Francis leads prayer in the Vatican gardens, May 30. (Photo by Vatican Media/Handout via Reuters)

Among those who prayed were Italian doctors, nurses, and ambulance drivers, as well as people who had recovered from coronavirus or lost family members. More than 33,000 have died in Italy.

Most wore masks except for when they led prayers at the microphone. Pope Francis sat several meters away from most people during most of the service and did not wear a mask.

In his closing prayer, Pope Francis said national leaders should take a far-sighted attitude, helping the most needy now and putting in place long-term economic and social solutions.

He prayed that the Madonna would “touch (leaders’) consciences so that enormous sums spent to possess more armaments and to perfect them be instead destined to the promotion of sufficient research to prevent such catastrophes in the future”.

Earlier this month, the pope called for international scientific cooperation to develop a vaccine and said any successful one should be shared globally.

For nearly three months, Pope Francis has led televised Masses, general audiences and Sunday addresses from inside the Vatican with no public.

St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square were fully reopened on May 18 as Italy entered the second phase of easing restrictions.

Pope Francis leads prayer in the Vatican gardens, May 30. (Photo by Vatican Media/Handout via Reuters)

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