by Nicole Winfield
ROME (AP) – Pope Francis suggested on Monday that vaccination against the coronavirus was a “moral obligation” and denounced how people were so influenced by “baseless information” to help save lives during the pandemic. One of the effective measures could be to refuse.
Francis used some of his strongest words yet called on people to get vaccinated in the speech of ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, an annual event in which they set the Vatican’s foreign policy goals for the year.
Francis, 85, has generally shied away from speaking about vaccination as a “moral obligation”, although his COVID-19 advisers refer to it as a “moral responsibility”. Instead, Francis has called vaccination “an act of love” and that refusing to be vaccinated was “suicidal”.
On Monday he went a step further, saying that individuals have a responsibility to take care of themselves “and this translates into respect for the health of those around us. Health care is a moral obligation,” he insisted. .
He regretted that, increasingly, ideological divisions were discouraging people from vaccination.
“Too often people allow themselves to be influenced by the ideology of the time, often by baseless information or poorly documented facts,” he said, calling for the adoption of “reality therapy” to correct this distortion.
“Vaccines are not a magical means of treatment, yet they certainly represent the most appropriate solution for disease prevention, among other treatments,” he said.
Some Catholics, including some conservative American bishops and cardinals, have claimed that research-based vaccines that used cells derived from aborted fetuses were immoral, and they refused to take jabs.
However, the Vatican’s doctrine office has said it is “ethically acceptable” for Catholics to receive a COVID-19 vaccine based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses. Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI have been fully vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech shots.
Francis reiterated his call for universal access to shots, especially in parts of the world with low vaccination rates, and called for an amendment to patent rules so that poorer countries can develop their own vaccines.
He said, “It is appropriate that institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization adopt their legal instruments lest monopolies rule more and more for an organized and consistent access to health care on a global scale.” Create obstacles,” he said.
Francis delivered the speech to a group of diplomats much smaller than usual, and left the part of the audience the ambassadors prefer: the chance to greet them personally and exchange a few words. The restrictions were apparently a response to the rapid increase in coronavirus cases in Italy.
On other topics, Francis lamented the devastation in Syria, called for “political and constitutional reforms” so that the country could be “reborn” and urged that any sanctions avoid targeting civilians. He did not exclude Russia by name, but called for an “acceptable and lasting solution” for Ukraine and the South Caucasus, driven by “mutual trust and a readiness to engage in calm discussions”.
And he also urged more open communication to avoid culture wars, without naming gender ideology or other hot-button topics.
“(Some viewpoints) leave no room for freedom of expression and are now taking the form of ‘cancelled culture’ invading many circles and public institutions. Under the guise of protecting diversity, it seeks to defuse the situation. With exposure, that cancels out all sense of identity,” he warned.