"COVID-19," says the Pope, "swept over us in the middle of the night, destabilizing our ordinary lives, revolutionizing our plans and customs, disturbing the apparent tranquility of even the most privileged societies, generating disorientation and suffering, and causing the death of so many of our brothers and sisters."
The pandemic has had unimaginable consequences that have shaken the entire world. This makes us realize that "rarely do individuals and society move forward in situations that generate such a sense of defeat and bitterness; for this weakens efforts dedicated to peace and provokes social conflict, frustration and violence of all kinds. In this sense, the pandemic seems to have shaken even the most peaceful areas of our world, bringing to the surface innumerable shortcomings".
Now that some time has passed, the Pope invites us to look back "to question ourselves, to learn, to grow and to allow ourselves to be transformed - personally and as a community". It is important to take stock and question ourselves: "what have we learned from this pandemic situation? What new paths should we take to free ourselves from the chains of our old habits, to be better prepared, to dare the new? What signs of life and hope can we take advantage of to move forward and try to make our world a better place?"
Francis, also making his own analysis, says that "the greatest lesson that COVID-19 leaves us as a legacy is the awareness that we all need each other; that our greatest treasure, although also the most fragile, is human fraternity, founded on our common divine filiation, and that no one can be saved alone. It is therefore urgent that we seek and promote together the universal values that trace the path of this human fraternity. We have also learned that the faith placed in progress, technology and the effects of globalization has not only been excessive, but has become an individualistic and idolatrous intoxication, compromising the desired guarantee of justice, harmony and peace. In our fast-paced world, all too often the widespread problems of imbalance, injustice, poverty and marginalization fuel unrest and conflict, and generate violence and even war".
However, not everything is negative, the Pontiff affirms that "we have managed to make positive discoveries: a beneficial return to humility; a reduction of certain consumerist pretensions; a renewed sense of solidarity that encourages us to come out of our selfishness to open ourselves to the suffering of others and their needs; as well as a commitment, in some cases truly heroic, of so many people who have given themselves so that everyone could better overcome the drama of the emergency".
The pandemic has forced us to seek unity. "It is together, in fraternity and solidarity, that we can build peace, ensure justice and overcome the most painful events. In fact, the most effective responses to the pandemic have been those in which social groups, public and private institutions and international organizations have united to face the challenge, leaving aside particular interests. Only peace born of fraternal and selfless love can help us to overcome personal, social and global crises.
After the pandemic, we cannot stand still, says the Pope. First of all, we must "allow God to transform our usual criteria for interpreting the world and reality through this historical moment." This also implies that "we cannot seek only to protect ourselves; it is time for all of us to commit ourselves to the healing of our society and our planet, creating the foundations for a more just and peaceful world, one that engages seriously in the search for a good that is truly common." In short, "we are called to face the challenges of our world with responsibility and compassion."
The Pope's message ends with a hopeful outlook for 2023. Thus, the Holy Father says he hopes "that in the new year we can walk together, treasuring what history can teach us". Francis ends by congratulating the year and entrusting the whole world to the Virgin Mary: "To all men and women of good will, I wish you a happy year, in which you can build, day by day, as artisans, peace. May Mary Immaculate, Mother of Jesus and Queen of Peace, intercede for us and for the whole world".