Things That Matter

Pope Francis Condemns People Who Are “Taking Advantage” of the Coronavirus to “Create Economic or Political Advantages”

Pope Francis, usually one to remain largely apoliticfal, has recently made headlines for his second public appearance since the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm starting in March.

Last Wednesday, 83-year-old Pope Francis made headlines for publicly wearing a mask–a garment that has become quite controversial in recent months.

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After months of virtual appearances, Pope Francis addressed an audience of around 500 people in the San Damasco courtyard in the Vatican. According to the Associated Press, the audience members were sitting on spaced-out chairs to accommodate social-distancing guidelines.

The Pope was seen entering and exiting his vehicle wearing a white mask. He was also seen using hand sanitizer in between greeting visitors. It is worth noting that Pope Francis had one of his lungs removed when he was younger, likely making him a high-risk person. Although he is usually known for his love of engaging with crowds, kept his distance this time.

In his speech, the Pope urged everyone to use the unusual circumstances of the pandemic to work towards the common good. He then warned against people using COVID-19 to exploit their own agendas.

“Unfortunately, we are witnessing the emergence of partisan interests,” he said, skirting around calling out anyone specifically.

“For example, there are those who want to appropriate possible solutions for themselves, such as (developing) vaccines and then selling them to others.”

He chastised these anonymous bad-faith actors further, adding: “Some are taking advantage of the situation to foment divisions, to create economic or political advantages, to start or intensify conflict.”

This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has condemned politicians and profiteers.

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He previously publicly criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from the parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In 2018, Reverend Joe S.Vásquez of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement saying “forcibly separating children from their mothers and fathers is ineffective to the goals of deterrence and safety and contrary to our Catholic values”.

In an interview with Reuteurs, the Pope expressed his support of the statement, saying he was “on the side” of the Bishop’s conference. “It’s not easy, but populism is not the solution,” he concluded.

A few days later, he wrote on Twitter: “We encounter Jesus in those who are poor, rejected, or refugees. Do not let fear get in the way of welcoming our neighbour in need.” Some saw it as a clear sub-tweet directed at the Trump administration.

This time, it’s worth wondering if Pope Francis’s decision to wear a mask means he’s subtly making his politics known, even if he isn’t making grand political statements.

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The Pope Tells Parents of LGBT Children That ‘God Loves Your Children As They Are.’

Things That Matter

The Pope Tells Parents of LGBT Children That ‘God Loves Your Children As They Are.’

Pope Francis is, once again, making headlines for his progressive views on contemporary issues. Since his election to papal office in 2013, Pope Francis has largely been considered open-minded due to his comparatively laid-back stances on controversial topics like divorce, climate change, and LGBT issues.

On Thursday, the Jesuit publication American Magazine reported that Pope Francis recently told the parents of LGBT children that “God loves your children as they are.”

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According to the publication, the Pope was having a dialogue with the parent of a lapsed-Catholic gay child who had left the church because “he did not feel accepted in his diversity”. The woman, whose name is Mara Grassi, is the Vice President of an association called “Jonathan’s Tent,” which “welcomes and provides information and formation to L.G.B.T. Christians, their families and pastoral workers.”

Before describing her interaction with the Pope, Grassi explained her journey as a Catholic parent of a gay child to American Magazine. “For many years I was like a blind person,” she said.

“After I came to know that my son was homosexual, I suffered a lot because the rules of the church made me think that he was excluded from the love of God. Nobody helped me,” Grassi added.

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It was only when Grassi attended a Catholic vigil against homophobia and connected with other parents of gay children that she realized that “faith and homosexuality are not in opposition” and that “God loves my son as he is.” And according to this most recent report, the Pope’s opinion seems to be in accordance with Grassi’s beliefs.

Grassi told American Magazine that she told the Pope she wanted to “create a bridge to the church so that the church too can change its way of looking at our children, no longer excluding them but fully welcoming them.” It was in response to this statement that the Pope told her: “The church loves your children as they are because they are children of God.”

According to the same report, before he left, Jonathan’s Tent gifted the Pope a rainbow-colored T-shirt with the words “In love there is no fear” written across the front.

Considering the Catholic Church’s traditionally conservative stances on gay issues, the Pope’s statement was surprising to many. In the past, the Catholic Church’s stance has been that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law.”

The Pope himself also has a complicated track record on gay rights, implying that gay marriage “threatens” the “very institution of marriage”. However, he has also previously expressed sympathy and modest support for people in the queer community as well as their loved ones, saying “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?”.

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Peru’s Indigenous Are Turning To Ancestral Medicines To Fight The Coronavirus

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Peru’s Indigenous Are Turning To Ancestral Medicines To Fight The Coronavirus

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With news headlines like “How Covid-19 could destroy indigenous communities”, it’s hard to understate the affect that the Coronavirus has had on Indigenous communities across the world.

Even before the pandemic hit, native populations were already at increased risk of health complications, poor access to medical care, lack of proper education, and even premature death. The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues as government programs and NGOs who delivered aid to far flung communities have grind to a halt.

However, many communities have started taking the matter into their own hands by creating their own impromptu healthcare systems based on ancestral techniques and others have barricaded off their villages from the outside world in an effort to stem the flow of the virus.

In Peru, many Indigenous communities are turning to centuries-old medicines to fight back against the Coronavirus.

The Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on Peru – the country with the world’s highest per capita Covid-19 mortality rate. At particular risk is the nation’s large Indigenous community, who often lack proper access to education efforts and medical care. This has forced many Indigenous groups to find their own remedies.

In the Ucayali region, government rapid response teams deployed to a handful of Indigenous communities have found infection rates as high as 80% through antibody testing. Food and medicine donations have reached only a fraction of the population. Many say the only state presence they have seen is from a group responsible for collecting bodies of the dead.

At least one community, the Indigenous Shipibo from Peru’s Amazon region, have decided to rely on the wisdom of their ancestors. With hospitals far away, doctors stretch too thin and a lack of beds, many have accepted the alternative medicine.

In a report by the Associated Press, one villager, Mery Fasabi, speaks about gathering herbs, steeping them in boiling water and instructing her loved ones to breathe in the vapors. She also makes syrups of onion and ginger to help clear congested airways.

“We had knowledge about these plants, but we didn’t know if they’d really help treat COVID,” the teacher told the AP. “With the pandemic we are discovering new things.”

One of the plants the Shipibo are using is known locally as ‘matico.’ The plant has green leaves and brightly colored flowers. And although Fasabi admits that these ancestral remedies are by no means a cure, the holistic approach is proving successful. She says that “We are giving tranquility to our patients,” through words of encouragement and physical touch.

Even before the Coronavirus, Indigenous communities were at a greater risk for infectious diseases.

Indigenous peoples around the globe tend to be at higher risk from emerging infectious diseases compared to other populations. During the H1N1 pandemic in Canada in 2009, for example, aboriginal Canadians made up 16% of admissions to hospital, despite making up 3.4% of the population.

Covid-19 is no exception. In the US, one in every 2,300 indigenous Americans has died, compared to one in 3,600 white Americans.

Indigenous groups are particularly vulnerable to dying from Covid-19 because they often live days away from professional medical help. As of July 28, the disease had killed 1,108 indigenous people and there had been 27,517 recorded cases, with the majority in Brazil, according to data published by Red Eclesial Panamazonia (Repam).

Some communities are turning inward to survive COVID-19, barricading villages and growing their own food.

Despite the immense threat they face, Indigenous communities are fighting back.

“I am amazed to see the ways that indigenous peoples are stepping up to provide support where governments have not,” Tauli-Corpuz, a teacher at Mexico’s UNAM, told The Conversation. “They are providing PPE and sanitation, making their own masks, and ensuring that information on Covid-19 is available in local languages, and are distributing food and other necessities.”

They are also choosing to isolate. In Ecuador’s Siekopai nation, about 45 Indigenous elders, adults and children traveled deep into the forest to their ancestral heartland of Lagartococha to escape exposure to the Coronavirus, says the nation’s president Justino Piaguaje.

Despite their best efforts, many experts are extremely concerned for the survival of many Indigenous communities.

Credit: Ginebra Peña / Amazonian Alliance

They are already facing the ‘tipping point’ of ecological collapse due to increased threats of deforestation, fires, industrial extraction, agribusiness expansion and climate change,” Amazon Watch executive director Leila Salazar-Lopez told UNESCO of Amazonian Indigenous groups.

“Now, the pandemic has created one more crisis, and as each day passes, the risk of ethnocide becomes more real.”

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