On 26 March, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Regional Ecumenical Organizations released a historic joint pastoral statement affirming the urgency of standing together to protect life amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WCC has since been gathering viewpoints from diverse regions about the importance of taking care of our one human family.
Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen is general secretary of the Conference of European Churches.
Why did you think it was important to support the historic statement of the Regional Ecumenical Organizations related to the COVID-19 response?
Dr Sørensen: COVID-19 is a global pandemic. Hence we must face it globally and act globally. Fortunately, we have already as Regional Ecumenical Organizations a well-functioning network which proves its worth during times like this. A key word for the ecumenical movement has always been unity. This is a time where we are called to not only talk about unity, but to act in a unified manner in order to combat a life-threatening disease.
What do you think is the best outcome of the message?
Dr Sørensen: It has been important to me that we as Regional Ecumenical Organizations with large church constituencies behind us and together with the WCC deliver a strong message to Christians and Christian leaders: Follow the guidelines and rules of your local health authorities. Secondly, we know that some religious groups (unintentionally) have caused dissemination of COVID-19 through large gatherings. I believe with this statement we undisputedly show the wider public that we as faith-based communities and organizations are working against the spread of the virus by not gathering in large numbers for worship or prayers.
What is the role of the churches in your particular region at this time?
Dr Sørensen: Europe has for some time now been the epi-centre of the outbreak. Particularly Italy, however increasingly also Spain are suffering. Medical staff work tirelessly to save as many lives as possible. I believe they along with responsible decision-makers and politicians in our societies need our prayers for wise decisions and stamina to cope with impossible working conditions. Churches in Europe have proved creative in setting up online alternatives to traditional worship and prayer meetings, catering for believers who wish to spiritually support in a difficult situation. In my view this may be the most important role of the churches in this situation: Sharing hope and trust through the Gospel of God’s unconditional love.
In joint statement, ecumenical organizations across the world stand together to protect life (WCC news release 26 March 2020)
WCC landing page: Coping with the Coronavirus