ROME — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Pope Francis joined an initiative of the Anglican Church, praying that people would be converted and use the pandemic’s disruption to begin anew.
“The Holy Spirit bestows wisdom and good counsel. In these days, let us invoke his aid upon those charged with making complex and pressing decisions, that they may defend human life and the dignity of work,” the pope said in a video message on Pentecost, May 31.
“This is what must be invested in: health, employment and the elimination of inequalities and poverty,” he said in the message that was part of Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby’s “Thy Kingdom Come” prayer service.
“Thy Kingdom Come” is a program that began in the Church of England in 2016, asking Anglicans to pray intensely the 10 days from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost that people would come to know the love of Jesus.
The project has become ecumenical, and because of the coronavirus lockdown, the prayer service concluding the 2020 campaign was held online.
Pope Francis said that as people look forward to an end of the pandemic lockdowns, “we need a vision rich in humanity; we cannot start up again by going back to our selfish pursuit of success without caring about those who are left behind.”
“The Lord is asking us to change course,” he said. “On the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke with a bold courage — parrhesia — prompted by the Spirit. ‘Repent,’ he urged, be converted, change the direction of your lives.
“That is what we need to do: Go back, turn back to God and our neighbor, no longer isolated and anesthetized before the cry of the poor and the devastation of our planet,” Pope Francis said.
“We need to be united in facing all those pandemics that are spreading: that of the virus, but also those of hunger, war, contempt for life and indifference to others,” he continued. “Only by walking together will we be able to go far.”
“At Pentecost,” the pope said, “God ‘infected’ the world with life. How different this is from the contagion of death that has ravaged the earth for months now! Today, more than ever, it is necessary to implore the Holy Spirit to pour forth into our hearts the life of God, who is love.”
But to bring that better future, he said, people must be willing to open their eyes and hearts and to change.
With the “appropriate and necessary measures” enacted to prevent the spread of the virus, he said, people have been brought together by the same fear and uncertainty.
“How many troubled and broken hearts are in need of comfort,” Pope Francis said. Christians believe they have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised would bring comfort, and they are called to extend that comfort to others.
The way forward is not that difficult, he said. It mainly involves doing for others that which one would hope for oneself.
“Do we want to be heard? Let us first listen. Do we need encouragement? Let us give encouragement,” he continued. “Do we want someone to care for us? Let us care for those who are alone and abandoned. Do we need hope for tomorrow? Let us give hope today.”
And, he said, Christians must give a united witness of mercy and of the reality that all people are brothers and sisters.