Pope Francis on Wednesday spoke out against “denier” cardinals who refused the coronavirus vaccine, in an apparent swipe at his main critic who recently contracted COVID-19.
“In the College of Cardinals, there are a few deniers. One of them, the poor man, contracted the virus,” the pontiff told reporters as he flew home from a trip to Slovakia.
The pope did not name the person he was referring to, but American Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of Pope Francis’ fiercest and most vocal critics in the Catholic Church, was recently admitted to hospital in the United States with COVID-19.
LifeSiteNews reported in May 2020 that Cardinal Burke affirmed in an online talk that it is “never morally justified to develop a vaccine through the use of cell lines of aborted fetuses.”
It added that the cardinal said that vaccination should not be imposed on citizens “in a totalitarian manner” and spoke of the possibility of microchips being planted under people’s skin, permitting them to be “controlled by the state regarding health and about other matters.”
The pope said that in the heart of the Vatican, “everyone is vaccinated, with the exception of a small group.”
“We are studying how to help them,” he said during a press conference onboard the papal plane.
The pope is a strong advocate of coronavirus vaccines and has previously expressed his incomprehension with those who refuse to take it.
“It’s a bit strange because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines,” Pope Francis said, highlighting the jabs that have for decades protected children against measles or polio.
“We should clarify things and speak calmly,” he advised, while also conceding that the debates over the different anti-coronavirus vaccines could create uncertainty or fear.
Some conservative anti-vaccine bishops, particularly in the United States, have said Catholics should have the possibility of claiming conscientious objection to the vaccine on religious grounds.
But the pope has made clear in the past that he disagrees, never having mentioned the option.
He said some people might have been afraid at first because there were various vaccines available and some turned out to be “little more than distilled water.”
He did not name any vaccines.
Pope Francis, who received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, in January and February, has repeatedly encouraged Catholics to be vaccinated and has promoted the fair distribution of vaccines throughout the world.
He said in a public service announcement produced in collaboration with the Ad Council in August that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is “an act of love.”
“I pray to God that each one of us can make his or her own small gesture of love, no matter how small, love is always grand,” the pope said in the announcement on August 17. – with reports from Agencies