• The Star Staff

Pope calls coronavirus vaccinations an ethical obligation

By Jason Horowitz

Pope Francis said he would be vaccinated against the coronavirus as early as this coming week, calling it a lifesaving, ethical obligation and the refusal to do so suicidal, according to remarks made to an Italian television news program.

He also said the storming of the U.S. Capitol astonished him and should be condemned.

In an interview for the TG5 newscast expected to air Sunday evening, Francis called on everyone to get the vaccine. A transcript of the pope’s vaccination remarks, which were not immediately confirmed by the Vatican, was provided by Fabio Luca Marchese Ragona, the TG5 Vatican reporter who conducted the interview.

“It’s an ethical choice, because you are playing with health, life, but you are also playing with the lives of others,” Francis said in the interview. “I’ve signed up. One must do it.”

According to the transcript, the pope added, “I don’t understand why some say, ‘No, vaccines are dangerous.’ If it is presented by doctors as a thing that can go well, that has no special dangers, why not take it? There is a suicidal denial that I wouldn’t know how to explain.”

Francis has sometimes been criticized for not wearing a mask during the pandemic, and some have expressed concern that world leaders and other attendees at papal audiences could be putting him, or themselves, in danger.

The Vatican has insisted that social distancing measures and testing are employed to maintain safety, although some prelates, including cardinals, have tested positive for the virus within days of interacting with Francis.

The virus has forced Francis to stay home during much of the past year, and the Vatican has had to cancel or severely limit even its most important celebrations. By presiding over ceremonies before a vast, empty St. Peter’s Square, the pope has underlined the way the virus has changed not only people’s daily lives, but also the life of the church.

Footage of some of the pope’s remarks was made public in a clip promoting the interview, including his reaction to the storming Wednesday of the U.S. Capitol by a mob supporting President Donald Trump.

“I was astonished,” Francis said, “because it is a people so disciplined in democracy, no?” But even in a mature society, he added, there is always “something that isn’t right, something with people who take a path against the community, against democracy, against the common good.”

“This should be condemned, this movement, regardless of the people,” the pope said, clarifying that he meant the violence. “Violence is always like this, no?”

He said that all societies have been afflicted by violence over time and that people should learn from history so the seeds of discontent are understood. “We must understand it well, not to repeat it. To learn from history,” Francis said. “These noncompliant groups not well integrated in society will sooner or later” turn to violence.

In the interview transcript, Francis also reflected on his own experience with vaccines, recalling the polio crisis when he was a child that led to desperation among mothers to find a vaccine.

“We grew up in the shadow of vaccines, for measles, for this and that, vaccines that they gave us as children,” he added.

In his “Urbi et Orbi” message on Christmas Day, Francis called for “vaccines for all,” especially the world’s most vulnerable people.

“Today, at this time of darkness and uncertainty because of the pandemic, there appear different lights of hope,” he said in his Christmas remarks, “such as the discovery of vaccines.”

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