On Friday, March 27, Pope Francis delivered an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing to the world, acknowledging the devastation being caused by the coronavirus pandemic and our attempts to mitigate its rapid spread.
Still now, when we are celebrating Easter, the fragility of humanity and our inability to stop the ravages of COVID-19 on our sisters and brothers are frighteningly apparent. In some ways it feels as if Lent is still with us. How long, oh Lord, we agonize, will this pandemic paralyze and kill?
Yet, our faith calls us to celebrate the love of the Cross, the hope of the Resurrection. As the Holy Father said on March 27, as he reflected on the Gospel story of Jesus and the disciples in a boat in the midst of a storm, “The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith.”
As Catholic communicators, we are finding ourselves on the front lines, so to speak, of communicating solidarity and Christian hope to a frightened and exhausted world.
We are truth-tellers, helping our public health officials and government leaders in communicating what the public can do to slow down the coronavirus’ spread. We dispel rumors and provide calm.
We encourage the helpers, those who are taking care of the sick, educating children, growing and selling food, getting rid of the garbage and making sure essential services – including the internet – are running well. Their witness of hope and their heroism amidst pain must be amplified.
We are the voice for the voiceless, the poor, the homeless, the marginalized, who are impacted more severely by any crisis.
We lead our parishes in maintaining community, even when the physical doors are closed. Who would have thought that live streaming of Mass would test the bandwidth of the internet? We are an international church, but as we continue this fast of physical contact, the digital space gives us a place to share our faith – and even to invite others to join us, from their kitchen table. We are finding ways to gather, to pray, to organize our works of charity and mercy, and to tithe, using the gifts of the digital platforms.
How prophetic Pope Francis was when he wrote in Evangelii Gaudium, “The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be ‘the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.’” (No. 28)
Now is an extraordinary time in which great flexibility, openness and missionary creativity is needed so the Church can be in the homes of her sons and daughters. I am continually encouraged by the work you do, as Catholic communicators, to help our parishes, the people of God, rise together to carry humanity through darkness into the light. Along with the SIGNIS executive officers and board of directors, I am grateful for the many lay media professionals who are risking their personal safety, as journalists, videographers, technicians, interpreters and others, so people do not feel so isolated and may have access to facts and the truth.
In the past, some of our greatest lay movements, religious orders and institutions were born in response to desperate situations. As we reflect upon the importance of spiritual communion in the midst of social isolation, I believe the Holy Spirit is urging SIGNIS members to show how we can use modern communication to be carriers of hope, that great antivirus. May you find in your celebration of Easter the sure hope of God’s faithfulness and compassion.