The coronavirus pandemic forces us to wear masks and to confine ourselves... And it calls into question the fraternity and social friendship to which Pope Francis dedicated his last encyclical "All Brothers".
Fraternity and social friendship go together. Social friendship translates a common commitment, a reciprocity in an attentive look and a gesture that takes care of the other.
Friendship mobilizes everything that makes communication between us, it can go through digital connections certainly, but it needs the language of our bodies. Pope Francis in his encyclical speaks of "physical gestures, facial expressions, silences, body language, even perfume, the shaking of hands, blushing, sweating" (§43) which are necessary for social life and the expression of social friendship between us.
The current events at Covid require us to live this social friendship in restraint, to respect each other by wearing a mask on our faces and by staying at a distance: sad but necessary mark of fraternity. However, this does not mean indifference or fear of the other.
On the contrary, Pope Francis uses the image of the mask to show that the Covid-19 pandemic has unmasked our vulnerability and interdependence.
The pope speaks of the pandemic as "the storm that unmasks our vulnerability and reveals those false and superfluous securities with which we have built our agendas, our projects, our habits and priorities. ...] With the storm, we have shed the make-up of the stereotypes with which we used to hide our egos, always preoccupied with their image; and once again, this [happy] common belonging [...] remains manifest [...], from which we cannot escape: the fact that we are brothers" (§32); "no one saves himself"; "it is only possible to save ourselves together" (§32), as brothers and sisters.
Pope Francis also calls upon the parable of the Samaritan to evoke how before the man on the ground there is no longer any distinction between the inhabitant of Judea and the inhabitant of Samaria, there is no longer any question of a priest or a merchant; there are simply two types of people: those who take care of the pain and those who pass by; those who bend down recognizing the man on the ground and those who look away and speed up their steps. Indeed, our multiple masks, labels and accoutrements are falling off: it's time for truth! Are we going to bend over to touch and heal the wounds of others? Are we going to bend over to carry each other on our shoulders? This is the challenge of our time and we should not be afraid of it," Pope Francis tells us again (§70).