ROSARIO, Argentina – As the world continues to grapple to determine what is the best response to the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis sent a handwritten letter to an Argentine judge saying that despite being an “economic disaster,” life has to be prioritized over the economy as not to provoke a “virionic genocide.”

In the letter, addressed to Roberto Andres Gallardo, who leads the Pan American Network of Magistrates, Francis calls for urgent measures to “defend the population” from the pandemic, which as he noted, grows in “geometric progressions.”

He also expresses his regret over the consequences of this crisis: Hunger, violence and the appearance of usurers.

Portions of the letter were made public by Telam, Argentina’s state-run news agency.

“I am edified by the reaction of so many people, doctors, nurses, volunteers, religious, priests, who risk their lives to heal and defend healthy people from contagion,” wrote the pope in the letter, sent on Saturday.

Francis stressed that “some governments have taken exemplary measures with well-marked priorities to defend the population.”

“It is true that these measures ‘bother’ those who are forced to comply with them, but it is always for the common good and, in the long run, most people accept them and have a positive attitude,” he said.

In his letter to the judge, Francis argued that governments that face the pandemic with “exemplary measures” show “the priority of their decisions: People first. And this is important because we all know that defending the people is an economic hardship.”

“It would be sad if the opposite was chosen, which would lead to the death of many people, something that would be like a virionic genocide,” Francis warned.

Though most countries in the world have now accepted that the best way to try to flatten the curve of contagion is to close all non essential business and to ask people to stay home, there are some countries, including Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, that are going in the opposite direction. Experts have warned that this can lead to preventable death of thousands, mostly the elderly.

In this context, Bergoglio recalled his meeting last Friday with the authorities of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, “to reflect on the now and the after.”

“Preparing for the aftermath is important. There are already some consequences that must be faced: Hunger, especially for people without permanent work, violence, the appearance of usurers,” who the pope describes as the “true plague of the social future,” as they are criminals who have become “dehumanized.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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