ROME – Pope Francis doubled down on his press for global equity regarding COVID-19 vaccines on Saturday, asking countries and companies to temporarily lift the property rights they hold to speed up distribution in a new video message.
To make his point, he joined a concert hosted by Selena Gomez and organized by Prince Harry And Meghan Markle, with a lineup that included Jennifer Lopez, Foo Fighters, David Letterman, Olivia Munn and Sean Penn.
Lamenting what he called the “virus of individualism,” Francis argued it doesn’t lead to freedom or equality, but indifference to the suffering of others.
Much like the coronavirus that has reshaped many industries throughout the world, Francis argued the virus of individualism has many variants.
“A variant of this virus is closed nationalism, which prevents, for example, an internationalism of vaccines,” the pope said, in the wake of a decision by the Biden administration to waive intellectual property rights for the Covid vaccines.
That move has opened divisions in Europe, with European Council President Charles Michel expressing skepticism Saturday that it’s a “magic bullet” and French President Emmanuel Macron saying that if the US really wants to help, it could end bans on vaccine exports and share technology to ramp up production.
“Another variant is when we place the laws of the market or intellectual property over the laws of love and the health of humanity. Another variant is when we create and foster a sick economy, which allows a few very rich people, a few very rich people, to own more than all the rest of humanity, and production and consumption patterns to destroy the planet, our ‘Common Home’,” he said.
Francis joined the concert through a video released on Saturday, as part of the “VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World” broadcast. According to organizers, the event was meant as a celebration of hope as families and communities reunite after receiving the vaccine, and it calls on world leaders to step up for equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The broadcast was taped before its airing, through YouTube and other platforms, and it was done so in compliance with COVID-19 rules. Though the concert was meant to be an online event, a limited number of frontline workers who’ve been fully vaccinated were able to join live while wearing masks.
Francis began his message, addressed to “young people in age and spirit” by noting that he’s an old man “who does not dance or sing like you, but who believes with you that injustice and evil are not invincible.”
“The coronavirus has caused death and suffering, affecting the lives of all, especially the most vulnerable,” the pope said, urging those tuning in to not forget those who live in the outskirts of society, particularly seeing that the pandemic has “contributed to worsening existing social and environmental crises, as you young people always remind us.”
According to Francis, every social injustice and marginalization also affects the environment, because “nature and person are united. God the Creator instills in our hearts a new and generous spirit to abandon our individualism and promote the common good: a spirit of justice that mobilizes us to ensure universal access to vaccines and the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights; a spirit of communion that allows us to generate a different, more inclusive, just and sustainable economic model.”
At Pope Francis request, during the past month several thousand homeless and needy people from all over Rome have received the Pfitzer vaccine for free, courtesy of the Vatican.
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma