ROME – Pope Francis joined six other prelates — including Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and cardinals from Mexico, Brazil and El Salvador — in a public service ad in which he called vaccination against COVID-19 “an act of love.”
“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19,” the pope says in the ad. “They bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another.”
The ad from the nonprofit group Ad Council began circulating online and on TV on Wednesday. It’s the group’s first campaign to extend beyond the United States.
The ad includes Pope Francis, Gomez, Mexican Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Salvadorian Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, and Peruvian Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos, describing vaccination against COVID as a moral responsibility.
“Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love. And helping the majority of people to do so is an act of love,” Francis continues. “Getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.”
By taking part in the vaccination campaign, the pope has joined a group of influencers that includes former presidents, first ladies, athletes, musicians, actors and even Elmo from “Sesame Street.”
Pope Francis, who’s come under fire for not always wearing a mask when greeting people in public, received the Pfitzer vaccine earlier this year, with the Vatican being one of the first states to offer free vaccines to all of its citizens and employees. Thousands of homeless people from Rome also received the vaccine courtesy of the Vatican.
The Ad Council said it would run the ad on Telemundo, Universo and WarnerMedia platforms, as well as on media in Spanish-speaking countries.
Gomez, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archbishop of Los Angeles, lamented the damage the pandemic has caused across the globe.
“The terrible coronavirus pandemic has caused disease, death and suffering throughout the world,” the archbishop said. “May God grant us the grace to face it with the strength of faith, ensuring that vaccines are available to all.”
Speaking from the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s Aguiar Retes said that “as we prepare for a better future as an interconnected global community, we want to bring hope to all, without exclusion.”
“From North to South America, we support vaccination for all,” he said.
Maradiaga, a member of the council of cardinals who advise the pope in the reform of the Roman Curia, said that the world has much to learn from the virus but “one thing is certain: The authorized vaccines are effective, and are here to save lives. They are the key to a path of personal and universal healing.”
Speaking in Portuguese, Hummes praised the “heroic efforts” of health professionals in developing “safe and effective” jabs.
Lisa Sherman, the chief executive of the Ad Council, a group that led a similar crusade in the 1950s when it urged Americans to get vaccinated against polio, said in a statement, “We’ve said all along that the messenger can be as or more important than the actual message itself.”
“To the world’s billion-plus Catholics, the Pope is one of the most trusted messengers and holds unparalleled influence,” Sherman said. “We are extremely grateful to him and the Cardinals and Archbishops for lending their voices and platforms to help people across the globe feel more confident in the vaccines.”
Vaccination campaigns across the Americas have been uneven. The latest data shows that in the United States, 72 percent of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, though the percentage decreases to 67 percent among adult Hispanics. Worldwide, COVID-19 cases are on the rise, especially across Latin America in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Peru, where rates of individuals fully vaccinated range from only 5.5 percent in Honduras) to 30 percent in El Salvador.
According to Ad Council, although access to vaccines continues to be a challenge, confidence in the vaccines is also presenting a hurdle.