human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Those who believe are never alone

Loneliness and Easter

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Since more than a year, we find ourselves in a new reality that includes lockdowns, quarantines, facemasks, and ‘social distancing’, which is a misleading and even wrong term to try to capture the physical distance we have to impose to comply with government regulations. Many of the people already entrusted in our care in Caritas, as well as many new people who never thought that they would need assistance, have been feeling especially lonely and excluded.

The reasonable and justifiable call for physical distance has caused a high degree of destructive isolation. We might do well to flip the debate on its head: from social distancing to distant socialising, staying near to each other, even when we have to keep physical distance.

However, even before coronavirus, we were ‘more alone than ever in an increasingly massified world that promotes individual interests and weakens the communitarian dimension of life’ (FT 12), as Pope Francis has said. Moreover, he draws an ambivalent picture of our society: ‘Today we can recognize that we fed ourselves on dreams of splendour and grandeur, and ended up consuming distraction, insularity and solitude. We gorged ourselves on networking, and lost the taste of fraternity. We looked for quick and safe results, only to find ourselves overwhelmed by impatience and anxiety. Prisoners of a virtual reality, we lost the taste and flavour of the truly real.’ (FT 33) This is one of the reasons why we have to learn from the crisis: we cannot return to the situation as it was before.

Loneliness, a hardship present already before the crisis, is now visible in so many places. At the same time, we recognise, based on experience as well as on scientific research, that we, as human beings, need each other. The pandemic brought into stark relief the isolation of so many. When Jesus directs our attention to loneliness, His words ‘have an even deeper meaning. They compel us to recognize Christ himself in each of our abandoned or excluded brothers and sisters (cf. Mt 25:40.45).’ (FT 85)