Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to receive a vaccine against coronavirus as an “act of love”.
In a video message, the Holy Father joined with the bishops from the Americas to urge the faithful not to hesitate about getting a protective jab.
“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from Covid-19,” he said in video released by Vatican News this week.
The vaccines, the Pope said, “bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another”.
Receiving a Covid jab “authorised by the respective authorities” is an “act of love”, Francis told the faithful.
Encouraging and helping others to be vaccinated, he said, is also an act of love. “Love for oneself, love for our families and friends, and love for all peoples,” he said. “Love is also social and political.”
“Getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable,” the Pope said, adding in prayer that “each one of us can make his or her own small gesture of love”.
Many Catholics remain reluctant about vaccination, partly because they are unconvinced of the safety of the vaccines and also because some have been derived from cells lines drawn from the tissue of aborted foetuses.
In January both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI received their first injections against the virus, just weeks after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that there was no moral case for rejecting vaccination.
The CDF also reiterated, however, the teaching that no-one should be compelled to receive treatments which trouble their consciences.
Many Catholics, including clergy, bishops and religious, remain uneasy about the vaccines. One vocal critic, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, is at present on a ventilator in hospital after refusing to have a jab on moral grounds.
In his video, Pope Francis was joined by several Latin American cardinals and archbishops.
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the United States’ Conference of Catholic Bishops, lamented the suffering and death the pandemic has wrought and prayed that God might “grant us the grace to face it with the strength of faith, ensuring that vaccines are available for all, so that we can all get immunised”.
Honduran Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said the world has much to learn from the coronavirus.
“But one thing is certain: the authorized vaccines are effective, and are here to save lives,” he said. “They are the key to a path of personal and universal healing.”
Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes praised the “heroic efforts” of health professionals in developing “safe and effective” jabs.
He also repeated the Pope’s affirmation that “getting vaccinated is an act of love”.
Salvadorian Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez said vaccination helps protect the most vulnerable.
“Our choice to get vaccinated affects others,” he said.
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