By Alessandro Gisotti
Sorrow and hope. These are the feelings that characterize these days leading to Christmas 2020 amidst the pandemic. The year that is coming to an end has been marked by suffering but also by the commitment of so many people to help those who are suffering.
In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President of Caritas Internationalis, recalls his personal experience of being infected by Covid and emphasizes the importance of welcoming the birth of Jesus as a moment of hope and rebirth for all of humanity.
Cardinal Tagle, Christmas of 2020 will be a very particular Christmas because of the pandemic. Amidst all this suffering, the birth of Jesus brings this wounded humanity a message of hope that is needed more than ever…
Yes, and I think we should also remember that probably the original Christmas, when Christ was born, the situation was not ideal. Israel was under some very difficult conditions of life, and in that midst, the Son of God was born.
I think the problems and the sufferings of this year will even help us focus on the message of hope and Christmas. What is it? It is God who comes to us. We will never be alone. Emmanuel: God with us. And other things that are with us will disappear: the investments, the achievements, the gifts, our money… will all disappear. All these things that we have associated with Christmas may disappear. But Jesus who comes as one of us, God with us, will remain with us forever. So that is our hope.
You were personally infected with Covid. What would you say to those who discover that they are positive and experience this condition of fear and uncertainty?
First of all, I want to tell them that they have a brother in me. Someone who knows specially the internal turmoil, the anguish, the fear. I would like to tell them, and all those who will be listening, that we could be surprised by something like this: you don’t expect it. So as the Gospel says: you do not know when it is coming, when the Lord will come, so be prepared.
So I hope we, all of us, could live every moment, every day of our lives, at peace with God, at peace with our neighbours. Let us not postpone the good things that we could do now, little acts: a simple act of kindness, a little act of justice, a simple phone call, a smile, a remembrance because you might not have another chance to do it.
Pope Francis has said many times this year that the pandemic proves that no one can be saved alone. What can Christians do, concretely, to give witness to these words of the Holy Father?
There are a lot of things. I always remember how creative Christians of different places and of different generations are in celebrating Christmas. You go from country to country and you see the creativity of Christians.
This year, Christmas 2020 in the pandemic is calling for solidarity. I hope we will be creative, that we will be able to find ways, specially in reminding our brothers and sisters that they have a friend that they can count on. Maybe, instead of saving money for myself, why don’t I save money for my neighbour who has none? Instead of having a feast for myself and my family alone, why can I not order food also for someone? There are many, many ways, so that people will know “I have a brother, I have a sister, I have a friend.”
2020 is coming to an end. It has been a year of suffering. What is your wish for the new year?
I wish that people will have the strength, the hope, the faith and the joy to make the new year brighter. We cannot wait for outside factors to change. Maybe they will not change. But we can change our outlook and that will make the new year brighter: our hope, our solidarity, our joy.