The world can emerge from the coronavirus pandemic "either better or worse," the pontiff said in improvised remarks during a weekly public speech at the Vatican. "We must come out better.”
Even with the pandemic eradicated, the pope said, the world can't function with current levels of social injustice and environmental degradation.
“How sad it would be if, for the COVID-19 vaccine, priority is given to the richest," he said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has "laid bare" class inequality.
The pope also pointed out it would be irrevocably bad if economic bailouts resulted in the revival of industries that don't help the planet or those suffering the most, adding that the virus had "found in its path, [devastatingly] great inequalities and discrimination" and has piled on.
Many poor people have been unable to shelter away from the threat of the fatal disease, and stay-at-home orders designed to curb the spread have highlighted socio-economic disparity, Francis said.
While finding the cure for coronavirus is crucial, the world must also work together to combat the "great virus" of injustice as well as the inequality of opportunity and marginalization, he said.
“Today, we have an occasion to build something different. For example, we can grow an economy of integral development of the poor and not of welfare,” he said.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that any nation that hoards potential COVID-19 vaccines would worsen the pandemic and encouraged countries to join a global pact by Aug. 31 to share their findings with developing nations.
Currently, more than 150 vaccines are in development, with just a handful in late-stage trials.
To date, Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports that there have been over 22 million coronavirus cases reported worldwide, with almost 800,000 deaths.