The Vocabulary of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia

Subjects 2020

The Pandemic and Us

Excerpts from Abp. Vincenzo Paglia’s essays

diversi da prima

DIFFERENT FROM BEFORE by Valentina Calzavara Daniele Ferrazza

Introduction by Dacia Maraini

Conversations on Covid and beyond with Paolo Cognetti, Silvio Garattini, Marco Bentivogli, Pippo Baudo, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, Sara Simeoni, Silvia Costa, Alessandra Graziottin, Roberto Ferrucci. Helvetia Publishing House

In this book, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has made the following remarks about Covid-19 and its consequences worldwide.

Quotation 1. "Without question globalization, if on one hand it has made enormous progress, on the other hand, when left at the mercy of the market and of the profit alone, and not of democracy and solidarity as well, has increased and aggravated instability in creation and inequalities in humanity. It is obvious that it must be rethought. In line with a new development model that includes the primary and indispensable value of a peaceful coexistence among all peoples. I am more than convinced that the future, the aftermath, will either be built on the primacy of solidarity, social ties, coexistence among all, or we will continue to fall into the abyss. Therefore, we can defeat the Covid-19 emergency only with the antibodies of a solidarity that embraces both creation and the human family. The technical and clinical means for containing the contagion - obviously necessary but not sufficient - must be integrated from now on by a far-reaching and profound complicity with the common good. And nobody is to be discarded. In particular, I am thinking of the elderly who are paying the highest price both in the number of deaths and in people’s appreciation. In short, they are being discarded de jure and de facto ».

Quotation 2. "Instead, we must already overcome the innate tendency to self-referentiality. At all levels. An example that concerns science too: scientists must not give in to sovereignism, to pressure from politics and from the market, without putting on the pedestal the only truth of our time. The pandemic should make us comprehend the indissoluble link between humanity, every man and woman on earth, and the environment, our planet. We are all connected to each other. That is the reason why we cannot "brand" as "environmentalism" or "ecology" the need for careful and in-depth reflection. The destruction of the environment that our extractive economy has been causing for over a century undoubtedly has a common root with this pandemic: we have become the dominant species on Earth, and therefore we are able to break the food chains of all other animals, but we are also the best means for transmitting pathogens. Our reflection must focus on "global bioethics", a reflection on life that includes "lifestyles", the "quality" of human life at all latitudes, in the different phases of personal development, placing life in the living environment. Let's not forget that statement made at the beginning of the Bible: "It is not good for the man (and the woman) to be alone!". Each of us has only one life to live, one humanity to live in, and one planet at our disposal. A planet that is not "ours". We are "keeping" it for the generation that will come after us. We have already degraded it too much. "

Quotation 3. "The rediscovery of our mortality has triggered a survival instinct of which the political classes of the West have become uncritical interpreters: we have moved from underestimating the epidemic, for fear of the economic consequences, to the general lockdown to “save” one’s fellow citizens. The measures have also been partially adopted in those areas of the world that have not in the least changed their life systems in the presence of the causes of death that every year wipe out millions of human beings: malaria, tuberculosis, Ebola, HIV, hunger, famine, conflicts. But in those parts of the world we haven’t seen any images of cities become deserts and populations locked in their houses. Three quarters of mankind continue to be resigned or aware of having much lower life expectancy. This is the opportune time to bring death back to the horizon of human existence: the question of death has in fact been buried, not erased. For those who do not believe this is an opportunity not to deny that mortal horizon. For those who believe this is an opportunity to listen to the voice coming from above. It is a chance to awaken our conscience numb by a self-centered, narcissistic well-being. We are all hearing that ancient warning louder: you are not immortal! "

Helvetia publishing house



Introduction Pandemic and Brotherhood

by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia

“Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost.  Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.  We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.  On this boat… are all of us” (Pope Francis, Meditation, Esplanade of St. Peter's Basilica, Friday, March 27)

In the midst of our technological and managerial euphoria, we found ourselves socially and technically unprepared for the arrival and spread of the Covid-19 contagion:  we struggled to recognize and admit its impact.  We learned that viruses have no borders.  Walls are useless, they do not stop diseases, they do not reduce, rather they increase, confusion, uncertainty, fear.  We touch with our fingers the fragility of life, our own vulnerability, the weakness of our society, our technology, the structures, and superstructures that we have set up to make us feel rich, strong, indispensable, privileged.  It is a fragility that eliminates many interpersonal and social relationships—a sort of indefinite suspension of our former way of life, with a more or less conscious commitment in the background—keep death as hidden as possible.  It seems that in these past months have been witnessing a dramatic split between the “before” and the “after.”  This age of “viruses,” however, offers us a valuable opportunity to reflect on the meaning of our existence as persons, as a society, as human beings.  In the first part of these reflections I focus on the themes of “us” and “taking care” of each other.  After these reflections, I introduce, following in the line of Pope Francis,  comments on several psalms that help us to move toward that Beyond, which for us believers is called God and for those who do not believe is called Mystery, that Mystery which welcomes and overcomes the abyss into which we have all fallen today.  If the “pandemic” affects everyone; if the best response to it is unified and worldwide; if solidarity makes us accountable to each other, we have an opportunity even now to trace out the key elements of the future that we want to build.  It is not true, in fact, that after this nightmarish pandemic parenthesis everything will be the way it was before.  Will tomorrow be better? It's not certain.  This is what I deal with in the second part.  The strength of our response will depend on how we handle this time, how creative we are in imagining the future, how boldly we strive to overcome the countless challenges we face.  We must be aware that we cannot simply try to do better what we have already been doing.  We need a paradigm shift, a new model of development.  Even now we need to reflect on understanding the present and foreseeing the future.  For a fuller introduction, I recommend the document “Pandemic and Universal Brotherhood,” presented to Pope Francis on March 30, 2020, which the Pontifical Academy for Life developed as its contribution to reflections on the pandemic which are being carried out in the world of scientific and humanistic research.

Published for Piemme by Mondadori Books S.p.A.

© 2020 Mondadori Books S.p.A., Milan


AUDIO - Pandemia y Fraternidad - Abp. PAGLIA - CELAM 23 junio 2020 - Espanol

AUDIO - Elderly people - Italian - Talk Alto Mare RPL Radio interview - May 12th 2020

The President

PAGLIA Vincenzo

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Msgr. Paglia Vincenzo

Abp. Vincenzo Paglia was appointed President of the Pontifical Academy for Life on August 15, 2016.





The art of prayer. The company of the Psalms in difficult times.

By Edizioni Terrasanta, Milan 2020

From the introduction: "The whole life is in the psalms: from when we were still in our mother's womb, to birth, youth and old age. The psalms show us that the Lord also examines the depths of our hearts, with their hopes and anxieties, sorrows and joys, disappointments and desires; He also sees injustice, wickedness, oppression. The psalms urge the believer to turn to the Lord to praise and thank him, to beg and call upon Him, to ask for forgiveness and help, or to claim justice and to ask for harsh repression of those who operate evil. In short, in the psalms every man finds himself in his body, soul, feelings, life. Through them he is immersed in the whole of creation. The entire Psalter, still today, remains one of the sources where to draw the depths of man's mind and heart. Everything in the psalms is dialogue, confrontation, prayer: God and man speak to one another. Saint Augustine effectively summarizes the entire Psalter thus: "If the text is prayer, pray; if it is a groan, groan; if it is gratitude, rejoice; if it is a text of hope, hope; if it expresses fear, fear. Because the things you feel in the biblical text are the mirror of yourselves "1. As you can guess: in the school of psalms we learn the art of prayer ".


"Us", not "I"

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From the Italian newspaper The Reformist – May 29, 2020

(...) We cannot delegate the solution to all these problems to the government. Each of us has a role to play. The Church has an extraordinary resource to put in place: the added value of the Social Doctrine and Pope Francis’s clear Magisterium on these issues. An example: last year, when Covid-19 was yet to come, Pope Francis wrote the Letter Humana Communitas to the Pontifical Academy for Life, in which he stated that "the many extraordinary resources made available to human beings by scientific and technological research could overshadow the joy of fraternal sharing and the beauty of common undertakings, unless they find their meaning in advancing that joy and beauty. We must acknowledge that fraternity remains the unkept promise of modernity. The universal spirit of fraternity that grows by mutual trust - within modern civil society and between peoples and nations - appears much weakened.

We can emerge from this crisis only together, conceiving a different model of society. As a matter of fact, Italy cannot get out of the crisis on its own but together with the other countries, in an epoch-making revision of economic models and lifestyles. A revision that affects every single person, man or woman, treading on this planet.

To be even more concrete. A project for a new society is needed for the future. Where there will be work for as many people as possible; where everyone will fight for equality, which means contrasting poverty, tax evasion, personal and public behaviors that tend to obscure a vision of "us" - according to the analysis that I carried out in the book The collapse of us ( Laterza 2017) - in favor of a tiny "I" unable to face the challenges of the near future. Individualism is a virus as dangerous as Covid19 and it is necessary to respond with a society plan that includes a revitalization of education and of the digital divide. A society in which all the citizens with their needs will be listened to and where bureaucracy will be reduced and will serve the common good.

The ideal resources to draw on are all there. On the side of ecclesial reflection, we have two amazing concepts: the common good, that is, the good of people, social well-being and development, in a context of peace. That’s already a challenging agenda! The second concept concerns the "common goods", the resources of our planet that we need and that we must preserve, so that life is possible for everyone and the planet has resources for all. This is Global Bioethics. (...)