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Pope questions vaccine skeptics, including cardinals

Pope Francis says he doesn’t understand why people refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19

“Even in the College of Cardinals there are deniers,” Francis said on Wednesday, returning from Slovakia.

He noted that one of them, “the poor”, had been hospitalized with the virus. It was an apparent reference to US Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was hospitalized in the United States and placed on a ventilator last month after contracting the virus.

Francis was asked about vaccine skeptics and those who oppose vaccination mandates by a Slovak journalist, given that some events during his four-day pilgrimage to the country were limited to people who had received COVID-19 injections. The problem is wider, however, as more and more governments adopt vaccination mandates for certain categories of workers, sparking opposition.

He hypothesized that the “virulence of uncertainty” was due to the diversity of COVID-19 vaccines, the rapid approval timeline and the plethora of “arguments that created this divide” and fear . Medical experts say the vaccines have been tested and used on tens of millions of people and have been shown to be effective in reducing severe hospitalizations and deaths.

Significantly, Francis did not cite the religious objection used by some who refuse vaccines. Some curators have refused to obtain the pictures, citing the distant and indirect link with cell lines derived from aborted fetuses.

The Vatican Doctrine Office said it was “morally acceptable” for Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines based on research using cells derived from aborted fetuses. Francis said it would be “suicide” not to receive the jab and Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI were fully vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech injections.

Francis noted that the Vatican has vaccinated its residents, staff and their families “except for a very small group” and “they are studying how to help them.”

For those who are still afraid, he said, “They must clarify this and speak calmly.”