Easter: Pope calls for COVID-19 vaccines for poor

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Pope Francis
Pope Francis attends a inter-religious ceremony for peace in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, in Rome Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis urged Catholics to remain hopeful in his Easter Sunday address, calling vaccines an “essential tool” in ending the pandemic and urging their swift rollout to the world’s poorest countries.

On the holiest holiday for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics and the second under the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, the pope focused his message on the world’s most vulnerable — the sick, migrants, people facing economic hardship, and those living in war zones like Syria, Yemen and Libya.

“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor,” the 84-year-old Argentine said, speaking to a congregation of only around 100 people inside the vast St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Vaccines are an essential tool in this fight,” he said, calling on the international community to overcome delays in distributing vaccines “especially in the poorest countries”.

Pope Francis, who has focused on the plight of vulnerable groups since becoming pope in 2013, had already warned rich nations against vaccine hoarding in an address to the UN General Assembly in September.

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Pope Francis said it was “scandalous” that armed conflicts around the world had not ceased.

He called for an end to the war in Syria, “where millions of people are presently living in inhumane conditions”, and in Yemen “whose situation has met with a deafening and scandalous silence”.

He also expressed his closeness to Myanmar’s youth — “committed to supporting democracy” — called for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and urged an end to violence in Africa, citing Nigeria, the Sahel, Northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region and Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.

“There are still too many wars and too much violence in the world,” Francis said, adding that April 4 marked an awareness day against landmines, “insidious and horrible devices”.