Pope Francis’ characterization of worldwide tensions based largely on race and ethnicity couldn’t be more on point. The leader of the world’s Roman Catholic community labeled it a “virus.” That is exactly how to describe widespread refusal to understand, accept or even tolerate others who are different. And, as with viruses, the results of that ill will can be infectious and deadly.
The pope made his observation this month at St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican City during a ceremony at which 17 new cardinals from six continents were inducted. He urged the cardinals to be careful about the deep-seated animus that has taken root and that has spread exponentially in recent years. “We are not immune from this,” he said. “Our pitiful hearts … tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn.”
And bearing in mind people of different races, nationalities and beliefs, Pope Francis further urged caution against all who “raise walls, build barriers and label people.”
He warned against casting someone as “an enemy because they come from a distant country, or have different customs. An enemy because of the color of their skin, their language, or social class.”
Often this subject brings to mind immigrants. And speaking of them, among the new “princes of the church,” as cardinals are also called, was Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin. A year ago Indiana Gov. Mike Pence asked the archbishop not to take in a Syrian refugee family. However, Cardinal Tobin defied the governor — the vice president-elect — and welcomed the Syrian refugees anyway.
The pope’s comments are applicable to every world inhabitant, believer and nonbeliever alike. Everyone who feels threatened by others who are different has a responsibility not to let this virus continue to spread. Pope Francis has called us all out.