Pope Francis visits a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in the Paul VI room on April 2 in the Vatican. Throughout the year, the Pope continued to encourage vaccination against COVID-19. (CNS / Holy See Press Service)
Vatican City – From a vaccination clinic in the Vatican courtroom atrium to a visit to the ancient Iraqi city of Ur and later to a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece, Pope Francis has demonstrated it all throughout 2021 what he meant by seeing all people as brothers or sisters.
Pope Francis has published his social encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on brotherhood and social friendship “, in October 2020, then explained and applied it in 2021 in encounters with migrants and refugees, welcoming religious leaders by urging governments to act on climate change and by setting out his vision of a synodal process that listens to and draws on the prayers of all Catholics.
In March, along with representatives of Muslim, Christian, Yazidi and other religious communities in Iraq, Pope Francis made a pilgrimage to Ur, an archaeological excavation in a dusty desert plain about 10 miles from present-day Nasiriyah.
Pope Francis speaks with a religious leader during an interfaith meeting in the Ur plain near Nasiriyah, Iraq, on March 6. Despite the security and COVID-19 risks, the Pope paid a successful visit to Iraq. (CNS / Paul Haring)
There, in the hometown of Patriarch Abraham, the first person to believe in the One God and Father of All, the Pope called on all believers to demonstrate their faith by treating each other like the brothers and sisters that they are. .
“From this place where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters”, declared the Pope.
And meeting refugees and asylum seekers in Cyprus and Greece, he called for individual action, national policies and international cooperation that recognize each of them as a deserving member of the human family. rescued.
“God loves us as his children; he wants us to be brothers and sisters, ”the Pope declared on December 5 in the camp on the Mediterranean coast on the Greek island of Lesbos. “He takes offense when we despise the men and women created in his image, leaving them at the mercy of the waves, in the flood of indifference.”
Pope Francis holds the hand of a man during a visit with refugees at the government-run reception and identification center on December 5 in Mytilene, Greece. The Pope called attention to the dignity of migrants throughout his pontificate, encouraging the faithful to see them as brothers and sisters. (CNS / Paul Haring)
As in 2020, Pope Francis’ activities throughout the year have been modified or impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the necessary precautions to slow its spread and the advocacy for better access to vaccines for all.
Pope Francis and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, are pictured in a video for an advertising campaign promoting COVID-19 vaccines in the Americas. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pope encouraged vaccination. (CNS screenshot / Courtesy of the Publicity Council)
In a public service announcement in August, Pope Francis said: “To be vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love. And helping to get the majority of people vaccinated is an act of love – love for yourself, love for family and friends, love for everyone. “
In January and February, Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI received their two doses of the Pfizer vaccine; they both received their booster shots in October.
First in the atrium of the courtroom and later in the Charlemagne wing under the colonnade in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican vaccinated not only its residents and employees, but also residents of shelters belonging to in the Vatican for the homeless and many people who regularly seek showers, barbers, doctors and food in the Vatican.
But another health problem took the Pope to Gemelli Hospital in Rome for 10 days in July for colon surgery. The Vatican said the Pope had scheduled his operation to treat “symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon.”
He underwent a three-hour surgery that included a left hemicolectomy, which is the removal of the descending part of the colon, a surgery that may be recommended to treat diverticulitis, when bulging pockets in the lining of the intestine or colon become inflamed or infected. .
The only scheduled event Pope Francis ignored during his recovery was a mass on July 25 to mark the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. He was released from the hospital on July 14.
Pope Francis presents a rosary to a patient at Gemelli Hospital on July 11 in Rome, as he recovers from scheduled colon surgery. The Pope was hospitalized for 10 days. (CNS / Vatican Media via Reuters)
But pandemic restrictions have wreaked more havoc on the papal calendar, forcing either the postponement of major events or a limit on participation. In 2021, Pope Francis did not celebrate any mass for the canonization of new saints, and he did not hold any consistory to create new cardinals.
Even one of the biggest celebrations of the year – a day of reflection on October 9 and a Mass on October 10 to kick off the process leading to the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2023 – included many key people participating virtually in the process. due to travel restrictions linked to the pandemic. .
Vaccinated and often masked, Pope Francis has traveled himself, visiting Iraq in March, Hungary and Slovakia in September, and Cyprus and Greece in December, just two weeks before his 85th birthday on December 17.
It also hosted a visit from US President Joe Biden in late October. The Vatican, citing COVID-19 restrictions, did not allow journalists to enter the Apostolic Palace for the visit, so the public record of the meeting consisted of a brief official Vatican statement and commentary improvised from the president.
The meeting lasted an unusually long 90 minutes, including 75 minutes of private talks between the Pope and the President.
Officially, climate change, the pandemic, migration, peace and human rights – including religious freedom – were the main topics.
US President Joe Biden, accompanied by his wife, Jill, is pictured with Pope Francis during a meeting on October 29 at the Vatican. (CNS / Vatican Media)
When asked if abortion was one of the topics of his meeting with the Pope, Biden told reporters: “We just talked about how happy he is that I am a good Catholic and that I should continue to receive communion “. The Vatican has not commented on the president’s comments.
Although Pope Francis did not publish any encyclicals or apostolic exhortations in 2021, he promulgated two documents that made headlines around the world: Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of Tradition), restoring the limits of the celebration of the pre-Vatican II mass; and the revision of “Book VI: Criminal Sanctions in the Church” of the Code of Canon Law, in particular to incorporate changes made over the past 15 years to protect children, promote investigations into allegations of sexual abuse committed by clerics and punish offenders.
The Pope has also shown special attention to his “sisters” in the Lord, amending canon law to allow women and men to be formally installed in the ministries of reader and acolyte; by appointing Missionary Xaviere Sr Nathalie Becquart one of the two under-secretaries of the Synod of Bishops; and by appointing Sr. Raffaella Petrini, a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist, to be the first female Secretary General of the office governing the Vatican City State.
Enter your email address to receive free NCR newsletters.