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  • Writer's pictureSean O'Leary

Letter to the Pope

An Open Letter to Pope Francis

1st April 2020

Most Holy Father,

I’m not one for writing to notable people. However, remarkable times call for remarkable measures. As a frightening pandemic sweeps across the earth, it is a time for atypical actions.

In your extraordinary moment of prayer in Rome on the 27th March, you noted that a thick darkness has taken over our lives in which we find ourselves afraid and lost. The question ‘Have you no faith?’ looms large in our souls.

To live, we need faith. Yet, we don’t always recognise the role of faith in our lives. We are tempted to believe that we have everything under control, that material forces explain everything, or that the amazing growth of human knowledge somehow makes redundant the faith of our parents or grandparents.

When we realise that our simplest day-to-day actions are coloured by our innermost dreams of a good life, we discover the seed of faith. When this tiny grain grows within us, nourished by the Spirit, we become more fully awake to an invigorating sense of collective belonging, the loving breath of God.

Your leadership constantly reminds us of our basic need for togetherness. When I see you now on television praying quietly, I am touched by your current isolation. Forgive me for acknowledging that your age may have something to do with this. In these uncertain times, we are more alert to the vulnerabilities of the elderly.

I can honestly say that I never expected to see a pope praying in an empty St. Peter’s square. It speaks to me of a heart-breaking physical isolation that we all reluctantly share. To stem the rate of infection, we must give up so many shared activities, the type of experiences that usually make life feel worthwhile.

Isolation does not have to mean division and disunity for it allows us the space to contemplate the interdependence of all life and the beauty of our shared common home. When we recognise the invisible call of belonging amidst such wonderous diversity, we begin to experience the simple joy of unity. In the face of shared adversity, our ambitions, our dreams and our hopes grow closer together.

As we witness the dreadful effects of coronavirus on society, we come to more clearly understand that we each bear responsibility for the state of the world. We cannot control what happens beyond ourselves, but we can each gain control over the choices we make and the actions we take. Through striving for a virtuous life and the common good, we exert an unmeasurable outward influence. This is the powerful message brought to us by the saints. In God’s beloved world, we are never entirely powerless. Blessed are the poor in spirit.

While needing to physically stay apart from one another, we recognise the communion of love that makes us neighbours and binds us to each other. In these strange and difficult times, our solidarity grows stronger beneath the radiant light of hope. This special grace burns brightly in the humble heart. It is a gift that we are called to willingly share for it is both abundant and eternal. Blessed are the meek.

I am not alone in feeling a powerful sense of the Eucharist during this time of turmoil. Others may call this invisible gift the spirit of human generosity. Whatever we call it, it is amazing that it thrives most during times of adversity. As we approach Easter this year, the inescapable suffering that surrounds us fires all our actions. Blessed are those who mourn.

During our darkest hours, we seek the light most fervently. It is only by united action that we can hope to overcome the darkness that threatens the entire world. By strengthening the weak and encouraging the exhausted, we better appreciate the scriptural truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

As we learn to treasure actions of kindness, we become less fragmented and more attuned to the real blessings in our lives. These blessings are with us always, constantly capable of such incredible growth that they eclipse the exponential growth of the virus. Blessed are the merciful.

I thank God for all the people who are giving so much of themselves during this crisis; the healthcare, transport, cleaning, security, food market and religious personnel along with the civil authorities and countless volunteers. Our determination to help each other reveals the sanctity of life. This says much about our purpose; to preserve and propagate goodness. Blessed are the pure in heart.

I count your leadership as a real blessing for the Church daily keeps alive the faith, hope and love that the world so badly needs right now. As people of God, we are especially asked to recognise the creative power, embodied wisdom and life-giving love gifted to us by the Blessed Trinity. We can see these gifts flourishing even more during these desperate times as we collectively battle the darkness. Blessed are the peacemakers.

It is truly awe-inspiring that the whole of humanity is co-operatively embracing this transcendent venture. When we extend our benevolent vision beyond our own individual interests, anything seems possible. Indeed, nothing is impossible with God. Compared with God's heavenly domain, all the differences that so often divide us fade away to nothing. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

Your words constantly remind us that the arms of God are spread wide enough to embrace the whole of humanity along with all creation itself. This is a moment in history where we can profoundly feel the divine word living in our hearts beckoning us ever forward into the grace of selfless love.

You remain, as always, in my prayers. I thank God for the strength, wisdom and loving faith that you foster through the Church.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Yours faithfully,



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