Card Sako: COVID-19 is opportunity for a deeper faith and a more caring society
In a letter, the cardinal calls on the faithful to seize the opportunity despite the tragic period. The coronavirus has changed the way people meet, whilst strengthening relations. We need "a new language" from the clergy to answer people's questions. Many religious and lay people and "different charisms" stand as examples.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Life "after the coronavirus" must resume "with more humanity and vigour" and faith must become "more mature and deeper,” writes the Chaldean patriarch, Card Louis Raphael Sako, in a letter to the faithful.
The COVID-19 pandemic offers a chance for spiritual and moral growth so that there is no need to return "to the previous situation”. Instead people should use this tragic time of lockdown, distancing and disrupted social life to rediscover a more authentic faith.
“The world will not go back to what it was,” the cardinal stresses in his message. “Home isolation has changed our life, our vision, our projects, our relationships.” This has "affected all of humanity and all religions.” It has forced the closure of churches for Holy Week and Easter, as well as the probable cancellation by Saudi Arabia of pilgrimages "because of the coronavirus".
On the one hand, the pandemic has upturned how people meet each other by forcing world leaders to hold meetings via teleconferencing since they cannot travel. The Eastern Churches will do the same "if the situation persists, with a synod via streaming.”
On the other, the health emergency “has created a positive situation of human solidarity and strengthened relations. This is what we see in the dedication of doctors, priests, volunteers and support staff, who have put their lives in danger to provide needed things and treat people.”
For the Chaldean primate people "have become more thoughtful, inclined to introspection;” they are more critical and want reforms. They no longer accept “that religion be imposed on them by law or pressure. Instead, they want it to come from inner persuasion and personal choice.”
This change requires "a new language” on the part of the clergy, one that can inspire “wonder” in the faithful who can thus "welcome the good news and desire to experience it, boosting the attractiveness of the Church and trust in her.”
Priests, Card Sako notes, are not "supervisors nor employees,” but “fathers and shepherds" in contact with the faithful whose needs they know. Renewal “must not be done [. . .] by playing on words on important topics, but by tackling them with great precision and clarity.”
Speaking of those who claim that the COVID-19 pandemic is God’s punishment, the cardinal says that “Such an idea goes against the central values of Christ's message, which emphasises that God is love, full of mercy and goodness.”
For him, the pandemic is "an opportunity" to "get closer" and the strength of the Church “lies in her ability to meet the challenges with courage and clarity” rather than rely on "tradition" as if it were an “absolute” dogma.
“We Christians,” he goes on to say, “must read the Beatitudes more deeply, not cursorily. The Beatitudes are a spiritual and living Magna Carta to overcome injustice, discrimination, pain, and bring about hoped-for change.”
The Apostle Paul “mentioned different charisms,” writes Card Sako. There are "wonderful lay people who can take on great responsibilities in the Church, cooperating in her progress.”
We have people like Chiara Lubich and Kiko Argüello, as well as prominent religious such as “Mother Teresa of Calcutta.”
“In our East, we have Brother Nour, founder of the Faith and Light movement and NourSat, and Melhem Khalaf, founder of the Joy of Gift community.”
In Iraq there is “Imad Hasib, founder of the Love and Joy community; the late Alhan Nahhab, founder of Bethany; and two sisters, Khalida and Shmirayta of the House of Hope.”