Amidst fear and hope

23 March 2020

It is noon. We are in Rome in the Salesian house of the "Sacred Heart", located in front of Termini Station, Italy's most important railway station. Half a million people normally pass by here every day, but today there are only about twenty people moving about, their faces covered in masks.

I think of other Italian cities and their empty streets, their restaurants closed, and people forced to stay inside their apartments, singing songs on the balconies, I don't know if out of boredom or to give each other hope. I believe, however, that very few of us had imagined how quickly the disease would come here to our homes, our schools and our oratories.

I think of schools closed in many countries where children depend on snacks and school lunches to have good nutrition. I think of their parents who are likely to lose their sources of income, and wonder how they will provide for their families in the near future.

I think of our lives and our religious communities accustomed to calculating risks, organizing agendas, and planning processes - which have been violently interrupted, leaving us perplexed and immersed in a clear sense of precariousness.

I think of the role that the media are playing, with their tendency to emotionally charge information, to "red line" the presentation of the facts, even sometimes distorting reality. In the history of epidemics, there has often been a tendency to present problems inappropriately and to provoke panic among people. I ask myself: is there no room for Hope in the often heroic actions of our fellow citizens?

I think of the grand myth or legend that we have built of a technologized world, with planned cities and safe spaces, wherein we now experience our weakness and that fragility that our ego does not want to acknowledge, but which instead makes us sense or percieve that our life is in other hands and that it is not we, but God, who determines history.

I think of so many Salesians, men of faith and hope, who share suffering with our young people, seeing their loved ones fall because of this pandemic, and above all comforting many who are facing a fear of the unknown.

We hope that the coronavirus pandemic is an example of global collaboration to overcome other challenges for humanity: inequalities, climate change, intolerance, racism and exclusion.

This epidemic will sooner or later end. In the meantime, I hope that the virus helps us to understand better that we are all human beings, and that when, with the help of God, we join forces, we can obtain everything.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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