By Deborah Castellano Lubov

While recognizing that talking about COVID-19 ‘aftermath’ is proving to be more complex and challenging than it seemed initially, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson says that what we are learning from countries that have flattened the curve of contagions can teach valuable lessons to others globally. Regardless, he recognizes, the future reactions of each country to the virus will differ, especially as vaccine research is underway.

This is was what the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and President of the Vatican Commission for Covid-19, expressed to ZENIT during the press conference on ‘Preparing the Future, Building Peace in the Time of COVID-19, ‘ held with some accredited journalists in the Holy See Press Office, July 7, 2020, at 11:30 a.m.

As usual, the Press Office took each masked journalist’s temperature upon entry, gave sanitizer, and had set channels to enter and leave the hall. Vatican-accredited press (and Press Office personnel) needed to wear masks and sit in designated, socially distant seats. The microphone for asking questions was also sanitized and disinfected between each question.

Intervening along with Cardinal Turkson were Sister Alessandra Smerilli, coordinator of the Economy Task-Force of the Vatican Commission for Covid-19 and professor of political economy at the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences Auxilium and Dr. Alessio Pecorario, coordinator of the Security Task-Force of the Vatican Commission for Covid-19 and official of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Addressing Cardinal Turkson, ZENIT English recalled that in an initial Vatican interview he had done when the Vatican’s COVID-19 Commission was instituted by Pope Francis, he stressed that “we must consider the aftermath of COVID-19, so we are not unprepared.”

Remembering these words, Zenit asked how–given the possibility of second waves in some countries, and how others do not yet have the virus under control–can the Commission effectively speak about COVID ‘aftermath.’

“It is difficult,” Cardinal Turkson told ZENIT.

“As you know the virus is traveling at different velocities. In Italy, not only have we flattened the curve, but it is on the descent, so practically Italy doesn’t make headlines anymore.”

“Now, the headlines,” the Cardinal expressed, “are the United States, not even New York, but now they are about Texas and Florida. We see them too about the Amazon…Brazil…”

Different countries, the Vatican Prefect acknowledged, are having “different experiences” of the virus now, after reflecting on how it traveled: “China, in Wuhan… Then it passed to Italy, then to other countries in Europe. Spain. Then New York,” he said, noting that from there, other US states are having much contagion, such as Florida, Texas, among others.

“So,” he then asked: “can we talk about ‘post’-COVID? When will we be able to say COVID is over, and we are dealing with a Post-COVID period?”

Clearly, a ‘Post-COVID’ period,” he said, “would be an experience just like how COVID had been, namely one that occurs at different times, in different countries…”

But the experience, the Ghanaian prelate underscored, will not be the same, especially as vaccine research continues, and some countries will presumably create a vaccine as soon as it is feasible

Highlighting how different experiences are country to country, place to place, the COVID-19 Commission leader emphasized: “we are looking at a case. [And] whenever we have a case, we know what we are looking at, we know the impact on healthcare, the impact on jobs, the impact on economy…”

With these being the common phenomena around the world, he noted that focusing in on them, “targeting the different phenomena,” they are able to better predict what will happen under certain conditions.

“Having prepared that research and findings for one case,” he explained, “can be applied to other cases, once they have that same experience.”

In his remarks, Cardinal Turkson said the Church strongly supports projects of peacebuilding that are essential for conflict and post-conflict communities to respond to COVID-19.

Recalling that Pope Francis last November in Nagasaki, said we must ‘break down the climate of distrust’ and prevent the ‘erosion of multilateralism,’ the Cardinal stressed that “in the interest of building a sustainable peace, we must foster a ‘culture of encounter’ where men and women discover one another as members of one human family, share the same belief.”

“Solidarity. Trust. Encounter. Common good. Nonviolence,” he listed, saying: “We believe these are the foundations of actual human security.”

The Cardinal also said he “welcomes” the UN Security Council’s recent endorsement of a global ceasefire.

“We can’t fight the pandemic if we are fighting or preparing to fight, each other,” he said, noting: “I also welcome the endorsement by 170 countries to the UN call to silence the guns! But one thing is to call or endorse a cease-fire statement, another thing is to implement it,” which he said requires freezing weapons production and dealing.”

“Now, more than ever,” Cardinal Turkson said, “is the time for nations of the world to shift from national security by military means to human security as the primary concern of policy and international relations. Now is the time for the international community and the Church to develop bold and imaginative plans for collective action commensurate with the magnitude of this crisis.”

The press conference was broadcast in live streaming on the Vatican News YouTube channel, at https://www.youtube.com/c/VaticanNews
Here is the Vatican-provided translation of Cardinal Turkson’s address:
***

As we all know, we are facing one of the worst humanitarian crises since World War II. As the world takes emergency measures to address a global pandemic and a global economic recession, both underpinned by a global climate emergency, we must also consider the implications for peace of these interconnected crises. The Vatican COVID-19 Commission, especially through the Task Forces on Security and Economics, has been analyzing some of these implications. Let me highlight the following.

While today unprecedented sums are devoted to military expenditure (including the largest nuclear modernization programs), the sick, the poor, the marginalized, and victims of conflict are being disproportionately affected by the present crisis. Until now, the interconnected crises (health, socio-economics, and ecology) are widening the gap not only between the rich and the poor but also between zones of peace, prosperity, and environmental justice and zones of conflict, deprivation, and ecological devastation.

There can be no healing without peace. Reducing conflicts is the only chance for reducing injustices and inequalities. Armed violence and conflict and poverty are indeed linked in a cycle that prevents peace, furthers human rights abuses, and hampers development.

I welcome the UN Security Council’s recent endorsement of a global cease-fire.[i] We can’t fight the pandemic if we are fighting or preparing to fight, each other. I also welcome the endorsement by 170 countries to the UN call to silence the guns![ii] But one thing is to call or endorse a cease-fire statement, another thing is to implement it. In order to do so, we need to freeze weapons production and dealing.

The current interconnected crises I mentioned (health, socio-economics, and ecologically) demonstrate the urgent need for a globalization of solidarity to reflect our global interdependence. In the last two decades, international stability and security have deteriorated.[iii] It seems that political friendship and international concord increasingly cease to be the supreme good that nations desire and are ready to commit to.

Regrettably, instead of being united for the common good against a common threat that knows no borders, many leaders are deepening international and internal divisions. In this sense, the pandemic, through health fatalities and complications, economic recession, and conflicts represents the perfect storm! We need global leadership that can re-build bonds of unity while rejecting scapegoating, mutual recrimination, chauvinistic nationalism, isolationism, and other forms of selfishness. As Pope Francis said last November in Nagasaki, we must “break down the climate of distrust” and prevent the “erosion of multilateralism”[iv]. In the interest of building a sustainable peace, we must foster a ‘culture of encounter’ where men and women discover one another as members of one human family, share the same belief. Solidarity. Trust. Encounter. Common good. Nonviolence. We believe these are the foundations of actual human security.

The Church strongly supports projects of peacebuilding that are essential for conflict and post-conflict communities to respond to COVID-19. Without controlling arms, it is impossible to ensure security. Without security, the responses to the pandemic are not complete.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recession, and climate change make ever clearer the need to give priority to positive peace over narrow notions of national security. Pope John XXIII already signaled the need for this transformation by re-defining peace in terms of the recognition, respect, safeguarding, and promotion of the rights of the human person (Pacem in Terris, 139). Now, more than ever is the time for nations of the world to shift from national security by military means to human security as the primary concern of policy and international relations. Now is the time for the international community and the Church to develop bold and imaginative plans for collective action commensurate with the magnitude of this crisis. Now is the time to build a world that better reflects a truly integral approach to peace, human development, and ecology.

Thank you!

[i] https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1067552
[ii] https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1066982
[iii] https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2019/09/27/190927b.html
[iv] http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2019/november/documents/papa- francesco_20191124_messaggio-arminucleari-nagasaki.html

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