We set out on a journey to ask several among the
Churches of the world:
Where do you see Christ amidst COVID-19?
Where do you see Unity?
How can you make sure that the vulnerable among you are being cared for?
We have been able to have some fascinating conversations surrounding these questions.
One of the most fascinating has to be the letter that we received from the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations.
Many of our readers may be familiar with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk – this is his office. While he is not the signatory of this letter, he has been a “friend of the Foundation,” and undoubtedly had a role in making sure that our contact with his office was granted a positive response.
(Translated from the Russian)
Dear Mr. Hayes,
I am grateful to you for the letter proposing to unite the efforts of the Orthodox and Catholics for supporting elderly and risk-group people in the situation of the spreading pandemic of coronavirus infection. Indeed, it has become a serious trial for the whole world. The Christian confessions cannot stay aside from people’s suffering either.
It is worth noting that when there were only 20 infected people in Russia, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church already called the monastics and laity to ardent prayer, good sense and observance of the appropriate preventive measures in parishes and monasteries for which a special instruction had been prepared by the 17th of March. It indicated in particular that social services of parishes, church representations and monasteries should give all possible aid to risk-group elderly parishioners in supplying them with foodstuffs and essential commodities.
Then a blessing was given for “arranging a duty for complying with requests of elderly parishioners’ and people with chronic illnesses so that sacraments could be administered at their homes with active involvement of parish social services and volunteers in visits to them”. To give a spiritual support to the faithful, the Church has adopted special prayer petitions concerning the threat of the spreading coronavirus infection and arranged regular live broadcasts of worship service.
In addition, the Synodal Department for Church Charity and representatives of Miloserdie (Mercy) Orthodox Service have organized an Orthodox volunteer service with around-the-clock hotline to help people from the risk group by buying and delivering foodstuffs, medicines and personal hygiene means. The Pomochshnik and Pokrovitel (Helper and Patron) Charity has published a special guidebook with information about the places where the homeless can get medical aid and meals.
Finally, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, on the 4rth Sunday of Lent, called the faithful to refrain for the time being from coming to church to avoid the danger of being infected and infecting others.
I believe it important to note that in developing appropriate measures the Russian Orthodox Church’s Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Service held consultations with representatives of St Egidio Community in Moscow, while His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia sent letters to or held phone talks with a number of Heads of Churches to express mutual support and discuss the current situation. The Moscow Patriarchate continues to be open to cooperation and joint actions with all Churches.
Along with practical results, the solidarity of Christians in face of a common disaster can become “a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!” as His Holiness Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill stated in their Havana Declaration in 2016.
With love in the Lord,
Department for External Church Relations