Pope Francis praised healthcare workers and “obedient and creative” priests who served during the novel coronavirus pandemic. As for priests who acted in defiance of safety measures and guidelines, Francis compared their behavior to that of children.
The Pope made his remarks Sunday at the Vatican, where he addressed an audience of doctors, nurses, and health workers from the northern Italian region of Lombardy, Religion News Service reported.
Lombardy was among the country’s hardest-hit regions by the pandemic.
“The pastoral zeal and creative concern of priests has helped people in their faith journeys and given them companionship in the presence of pain or fear,” Pope Francis said.
Many priests worked hard to remain close to their congregations when they couldn’t be physically near them, Francis said, according to Religion News Service.
“They were fathers, not adolescents,” Francis said.
At the height of the pandemic, countries around the world implemented social distancing and stay-at-home laws that forbade in-person church services.
Some priests defied these orders, in which Francis has referred to as “adolescent resistance.”
Avvenire, the media outlet of the Italian Bishop’s Conference, reported that more than 120 Italian priests have died during the pandemic. More than 9,800 Italians have succumbed to the virus.
In his Sunday remarks, Francis noted examples of “tenderness” by medical personnel, from holding up the phone to the dying so they could say goodbye to their loved ones to prayers and caresses, Religion News Service reported.
“Dear doctors and nurses, the world was able to see the good you have done in a time of great challenge,” he said. “Though tired, you continued to commit yourselves with professionalism and self-sacrifice.”
As more countries ease safety measures imposed during the pandemic, Francis urged people to remember what they learned during months of lockdown.
“Now it’s time to treasure all this positive energy we invested. Don’t forget!” he said, according to Religion News Service. “The pandemic left a deep mark in the life of people and the history of communities.”