Pope creates coronavirus commission to respond to pandemic

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has created a new commission that will confront the challenges the world is facing in battling the coronavirus pandemic and what it will inevitably face in its aftermath, the Vatican announced on April 15.

In its statement, the Vatican said the goal of the commission, which will be led by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is "to express the church's concern and love for the entire human family in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Medical staff, wearing protective suits and face masks, treat a patient suffering from COVID-19 in an intensive care unit of a hospital near Paris April 15, 2020. Pope Francis created a new commission that will confront the challenges the world is facing in battling the coronavirus pandemic and what it will inevitably face in its aftermath, the Vatican announced in a statement published April 15. CNS photo/Benoit Tessier, Reuters

The dicastery will work with other Vatican offices to coordinate the work, which includes "an analysis and a reflection on the socioeconomic and culture challenges of the future and proposed guidelines to address them," the Vatican said.

The commission is divided into five working groups focused on a specific aspect of the pandemic and has met twice with the pope to discuss ways it can help local churches, especially in poor areas, Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the dicastery, said in an interview with Vatican News published shortly after the announcement.

"The pope is convinced that we are living through an epochal change and he is reflecting on what will follow the crisis, on the economic and social consequences of the pandemic, on what we will have to face and, above all, on how the church can offer itself as a safe point of reference to the world lost in the face of an unexpected event," Cardinal Turkson said.

The commission's first working group, which is dedicated to "listening and supporting local churches," will work in cooperation with Caritas Internationalis, as well as the office of the papal almoner, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Vatican pharmacy.

Cardinal Turkson told Vatican News that the first group already has "set up mechanisms to listen to the local churches to identify real needs and assist in the development of effective and adequate responses," including coordinating with apostolic nuncios and bishops' conferences.

"A broad outlook is needed. Nobody must be forgotten — prisoners, vulnerable groups. We need to share good practices," the cardinal said.

The second group will dedicate itself to research and the study of the pandemic and to reflecting on society and the world post-coronavirus in coordination with the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

This group, Cardinal Turkson said, "has the task of night watch, like the sentry, to perceive the dawn. To do this it is necessary to connect the best minds in the areas of ecology, economy, health and public security. We need the concreteness of science, and we need prophecy and creativity."

Other working groups will focus on communication, relations with other countries to assist and share valuable research information, and financing the commission's relief efforts.