Pope Francis, 84 years old and eager to visit Iraq in March, but also Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 93 years old and recluse in his monastery in the Vatican, have both been vaccinated against Covid-19.
“As part of the Vatican City State vaccination program […] the first dose of the vaccine against Covid-19 has been administered to Pope Francis and to the Pope Emeritus, ”Holy See spokesperson Matteo Bruni announced Thursday.
To set an example
The Argentine pope was vaccinated on Wednesday – as reported by several media, while the German Pope Emeritus – has appeared increasingly fragile in recent months, moving in a wheelchair and speaking with difficulty – was in turn vaccinated Thursday morning, as part of the campaign that began Wednesday for some 5,000 Vatican employees.
In a televised interview broadcast Sunday evening, François had qualified the opposition to the vaccine of “suicidal denial”, highlighting “an ethical choice” essential to protect the lives of others. He therefore concretely set an example.
In December, the Vatican also urged Catholics to be vaccinated, explaining that all vaccines developed are “morally acceptable”, including those produced from cells of aborted fetuses.
Stem cells from aborted fetuses
Stem cells from aborted fetuses in the 60s, 70s and 80s – reproduced in the lab for decades as “cell lines” – have been used by many researchers to design anti-Covid-19 vaccines, for example within the Astra Zeneca, Moderna and Pfizer groups. In several countries of the world, particularly in Latin America, but also in Australia or the United Kingdom, the bishops had debated the dilemma of “morally ethical” vaccines.
Francis’ vaccination will be a relief for the entourage of a pope unwilling to don a mask.
His personal doctor for five years, Fabrizio Soccorsi, died on Saturday at the age of 78 “from complications due to Covid-19” while he was “hospitalized for a cancerous pathology”. Several cardinals around the pope or residents of his residence have contracted the virus in recent months.
The leader of the 1.3 billion Catholics is considered at risk. At 21, in 1957, Jorge Bergoglio had suffered from acute pleurisy and surgeons had to partially remove his right lung.
“In conscience, I cannot provoke gatherings”
François nevertheless remains concerned about the inevitable gatherings when he appears in public. Gatherings at Place Saint-Pierre are currently prohibited.
At the beginning of December, he announced that he would go to Iraq from March 5 to 8, the first trip abroad since the start of the pandemic, in a complicated security and health context.
“In conscience, I cannot provoke gatherings”, he commented on Sunday, “I do not know if the next trip to Iraq will be made”. But on the ground in Iraq, preparations for the trip are continuing, according to a Vatican source.
Ten months ago, during his first Sunday Angelus prayer recited from the library of the Apostolic Palace in front of a camera and not from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the Pope spoke of the strangeness of finding himself “in a cage” .
“I am in a cage”, he repeated Sunday evening with a smile, but “I calmed down, I took life as it came”. The Sovereign Pontiff said he prayed more, used his phone and held meetings to resolve issues.
“The pandemic has also colored the life of the Pope and I am happy,” he commented. At the end of March, in a sequence which marked the spirits, the Pope, alone on the deserted square of Saint Peter’s Basilica, had presided over a prayer in the face of “the storm” of the pandemic, urging the “frightened and lost” world to review your priorities.
In recent months, the Pope has not ceased to call for fraternity, which also involves the supply of vaccines to poor countries.