Junno Arocho Esteves/Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Among the many challenges the coronavirus pandemic has underscored is the need to safeguard the rights and dignity of refugees, Pope Francis said.

A socially distanced crowd watches as Pope Francis leads
the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking
St. Peter's Square at the Vatican June 21, 2020.
CNS photo/Vatican Media 

     Recalling the observance of World Refugee Day during his Angelus address June 21, the pope said the global crisis that arose out of the COVID-19 pandemic "has highlighted the need to ensure the necessary protection for refugees too, in order to guarantee their dignity and safety." 

     "I invite you to join me in praying for a renewed and effective commitment, on the part of us all, to the effective protection of every human being, especially those who have been forced to flee as a result of situations of grave danger to them or their families," he said. 

     The pandemic, he added, also highlighted the relationship between humankind and the environment. 

     During the early months of the crisis, major cities under lockdown in China, Italy and the United States reported a stark drop in air pollution as well as the return of wildlife in highly populated or polluted areas. 

     The pope said that the reduction in pollution "revealed once more the beauty of so many places free from traffic and noise." As more and more cities relax their restrictions, he added, "we should all be more responsible for looking after the common home." 

     Encouraging local grassroots initiatives dedicated to cleaning polluted areas, the pope expressed his hope that they may "foster a citizenship that is increasingly aware of this essential common good." 

     The pope also commemorated the feast day of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the famed Jesuit priest who died June 21, 1591, during a plague in Rome. 

     "Today we remember Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, a young man full of love for God and for his neighbor," Pope Francis said. "He died very young, here in Rome, as a result of caring for plague victims. I entrust young people throughout the world to his intercession."