In an unprecedented move, the Church leaders came together last week for a video conference, which included senior religious leaders from around Britain and Ireland sharing the situation in each of their jurisdictions.
The initiative originated with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who wanted to offer an opportunity for leaders to hear and support one another amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement signed by the leaders, which included the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols; the Primate of All-Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin; and the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert, they acknowledged that the world is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, with health services under extreme pressure and the most vulnerable in danger of being the most badly effected.
Noting that Christians throughout the world were entering an important time in the Church year, looking to the events of Jesus Christ’s death and Resurrection, they said: ‘At the centre of our common faith are both the depths of despair and the heights of joy. In the Bible and in the songs and liturgies of the Church, we see Jesus entering fully into human suffering. In His rising again, that suffering is redeemed and transformed into hope and joy. After Jesus’ death his disciples were afraid and all seemed lost and hopeless, but the risen Christ met them in their despair and restored hope through his victory over death. We pray that the world today might know this hope in place of despair.’
The leaders also pointed out that in the Book of Daniel God’s people were taken into exile in Babylon.
‘Daniel could not pray in the Temple in Jerusalem, but he continued to pray in exile – opening his window to face Jerusalem,’ they said. ‘Though he was on his own he joined with the prayers of the people wherever they were. Now we too are separated from each other physically, but when we pray in our homes we join in with this ancient tradition of our home as a place of prayer. Wherever we are, whenever we pray, when we speak and think of Christ, there he is in the midst of us. We join our prayers with all those who pray in our own churches and communities and around the world.
‘As Church leaders from across the many and varied churches of these Islands we urge all people to join us in prayer this Holy Week and Easter; to pray for those who suffer, those who face untimely death and all those who care for them; to celebrate our common faith at a difficult time; to help and support our neighbours in need; and to observe all the safeguards in place to slow the spread of disease.’