Pope Francis suggested that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus may be one of "nature's responses" to people around the world ignoring the harsh consequences of climate change.
"There is an expression in Spanish: 'God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives,'" the Pope said in an interview with The Tablet, a Catholic weekly produced in the United Kingdom, that was published on Wednesday.
Asked about whether he thought the coronavirus pandemic was an opportunity for an ecological conversion and a reassessment of priorities and lifestyles, the pope stressed that society has not responded to "partial catastrophes" stemming from the climate crisis.
"Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted?" he asked. "Who speaks now of the floods? I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses."
The novel coronavirus, which first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December, has spread to dozens of countries and infected more than 1 million people, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.
The Vatican closed Saint Peter's Square and Basilica to the public in early March as the outbreak's effects became more pronounced throughout Italy. The Vatican has reported seven confirmed cases of the virus in its ranks.
The pope, 83, said in the interview with The Tablet that the "Curia is trying to carry on its work, and to live normally," using shifts to avoid crowding.
He added that he prays more and goes to confession each week to ask forgiveness for his selfishness.
The pope also addressed world leaders' response to the crisis and the spotlight the economy has gained. He denounced "the hypocrisy of certain political personalities who speak of facing up to the crisis, of the problem of hunger in the world, but who in the meantime manufacture weapons."
He also emphasized that every crisis presented both opportunity and danger, the opportunity being "an economy that is less liquid, more human."
"I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world," he said. "We need to reconnect with our real surroundings. This is the opportunity for conversion."
Pope Francis regularly uses his platform to warn of the dangers of climate change. In September, he called on governments to take “drastic” action to combat the problem, saying that the emergency "gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own."
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