People marginalised by society have seen their lot worsen during the COVID-19 pandemic and should be offered a helping hand by people of goodwill, Malta’s bishops have said in a pastoral letter for Lent.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Gozo Bishop Anton Teuma and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Galea-Curmi reminded Catholics of the victims of what Pope Francis described as the “throwaway culture”, saying many were now lonely and isolated, with mental health problems on the rise during the pandemic.
“When faced with the reality of those who are suffering, we can either ignore them and keep going our own way, or we can stop to help them,” they said.
The pastoral letter, inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti, urges Catholics to show love to those fleeing humanitarian crises, overcome the “virus of individualism” and nurture dialogue, heal social wounds in “a spirit of forgiveness” and work harder “for a culture that respects the life and dignity of every person”.
Protecting human life and dignity meant doing so “from the very first moments of conception,” the letter adds, “throughout every moment of life, until its natural end.”
“The weak and vulnerable require more attention and care. No one is useless, no one should ever be eliminated,” the letter notes.
The bishops urged people to work together “as brothers and sisters” and in so doing to foster a culture of dialogue and practice what the Pope has described as “the art of listening”.
“A person who is able to dialogue with gentleness is truly capable of respecting others,” he said.
Such dialogue must acknowledge the wounds suffered by individuals and society, the letter adds. The bishops offered some examples of such wounds – “tribalism, racism, hatred, domestic violence, broken families, usury, alcohol and drug abuse, greed, abuse of power and also the uglification of our natural heritage.”
They urged Catholics to heal those wounds in a spirit of forgiveness, noting this does not mean forgetting or impunity, but was rather a way of freeing people from the “vicious cycle of revenge”.
“The encyclical Fratelli Tutti invites us to break chains through our love, and not to create new chains. It invites us to build bridges and not walls. Only then will we be able to overcome prejudices,” the letter notes.
Read the pastoral letter in full in the PDF below.
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