VATICAN CITY (RNS) — On Sunday (Jan. 10), Pope Francis twice addressed the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol last week, expressing his astonishment at the events and calling for national unity.
“I express warm greetings to the people of the United States of America, shocked by the recent siege at the Congress,” Pope Francis said in a speech after his weekly Angelus prayer.
“Nothing is earned through violence, and everything is lost,” he added, offering his prayers for the five people who lost their lives during the protests.
“I urge state authorities and the entire population to maintain a heightened sense of responsibility,” he continued, “with the aim of livening spirits, promoting national reconciliation and safeguarding the democratic values rooted in American society.”
He concluded his Sunday prayer by asking the Virgin Mary, patron of the Americas, to intercede on behalf of the United States to promote a culture of encounter and collaboration for the common good.
That evening, in an interview with the Italian News Channel Tg5, Francis mentioned the chaos at the Capitol again. He told Vatican reporter Fabio Marchese Ragona that he was “shocked” by images showing a large mob entering the temple of democracy in the United States but acknowledged that the unrest “is also a reality.”
“Even in the most mature realities there is always something not right,” he said, pointing to those individuals who act “against the community, against democracy, against the common good.”
Violence, the pope added, is not uncommon even in the most advanced democracies, and, while the violent protest represents a stain on American democracy, he said that it is good for it to have emerged so clearly.
“We must understand well so we don’t repeat; we must learn from history,” he said. “We must learn that groups that are not well-inserted into society will sooner or later make acts of violence.”
Francis urged countries to strive toward unity in the interview, calling out both angry mobs and so-called elites.
“The political class has a right to have a different point of view and impose its politics. But at the same time, it must act for unity, always,” he said. “Political struggle is a noble thing, but if politicians underline their personal interest above the common interest, things get ruined.”
Francis announced that he will be taking the vaccine for COVID-19 next week. The Vatican has made the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for its citizens, and the pope said he didn’t hesitate to put his name on the list.
“I believe that ethically everyone must take the vaccine,” Pope Francis told Tg5, calling it an “ethical option” because the virus doesn’t only risk one’s own safety but also that of others.