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Pope Francis urges universal healthcare, equitable vaccine distribution

Pope Francis addressed crises exacerbated by the pandemic in his New Year's greetings to the Holy See diplomatic corps. File Photo by Gennari/Spaziani/UPI
Pope Francis addressed crises exacerbated by the pandemic in his New Year's greetings to the Holy See diplomatic corps. File Photo by Gennari/Spaziani/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Pope Francis has called for universal access to basic healthcare and equitable vaccine distribution in a state-of-the-world address to diplomatic corps.

The sickness and death from the COVID-19 pandemic serves as a reminder of the right of each human life to dignified care, the pope said during the annual New Year's greetings to the Holy See diplomatic corp.

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To protect the most vulnerable, he urged political leaders to ensure universal basic healthcare.

A "concern for profit should not be guiding a field as sensitive as that of healthcare," the pope said, while also calling for equitable distribution of vaccines based on need, especially for people in the most need.

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Along with vaccines, the pope said other health prevention measures should be followed.

Among the numerous crises resulting from the pandemic, the pope focused on "the crisis of human relationships, as the expression of a general anthropological crisis, dealing with the very conception of the human person and his or her transcendent dignity."

The world "is seriously ill," Pope Francis said.

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"Not only as a result of the virus," he continued, "but also in its natural environment, is economic and political processes, and even more in its human relationships."

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"The pandemic shed light on the risks and consequences inherent in a way of life dominated by selfishness and a culture of waste, and it set before us a choice: either to continue on the road we have followed until now, or to set out on a new path," he said.

"I am convinced that fraternity is the true cure for the pandemic and for the many evils that have affected us," the pope added. "Fraternity and hope are the medicines we need in today's world along with vaccines."

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Along with the health crisis, the pope also said that the pandemic has exposed other interrelated issues such as the environmental crisis from climate change, extreme weather events, malnutrition and respiratory disease, and economic and hunger crises.

"The earth itself is fragile and in need of care," the pope said. An economy is needed that "brings life, not death, one that is inclusive and not exclusive, humane and not dehumanizing, one that cares for the environment and does not despoil it."

In particular, the pope said floods in Southeast Asia have caused deaths and destroyed livelihoods.

In Africa, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger millions suffered from hunger last year, the pope said. In South Sudan over 1 million children have been undernourished, he added, urging the country's authorities to pursue political dialogue and national reconciliation.

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The pope said that the pandemic has also aggravated problems for victims of exploitation, closed borders and humanitarian emergencies, such as those in Sudan, sub-Saharan Africa, Mozambique and Yemen, and political crisis, such as in Myanmar, where the military seized power in a coup last week.

The coup was based on military claims that parliamentary elections last fall were fraudulent.

"The democratic process requires the pursuing of the path of inclusiveness, peaceful, constructive and respectful dialogue among all the components of civil society in every city and nation," he said.

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