By Devin Watkins
The presidents of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) issued a joint statement on Thursday amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
Entitled “Let Us Remain United”, the statement is signed by COMECE President Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, and CEC President Rev. Christian Krieger.
Europe put to the test
Europe has been hard hit by Covid-19. Over 420,000 cases have been reported, and more than 30,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Europe.
Italy and Spain are the worst-affected EU nations, with around 100,000 cases apiece.
The joint statement acknowledges the human and economic toll. “Putting to the test every person, family, and community, the present crisis has exposed the vulnerabilities and apparent certainties of our policies, economics, and societies.”
The EU’s border-free Schengen Area even shut its external borders for 30 days to contain the virus’ spread.
Rediscovering solidarity and charity
Yet in the face of such an unprecedented situation, Europe’s Christian leaders say these “trying times are allowing us to rediscover our common humanity as brothers and sisters.”
They also thank the many people who inspire others with their acts of charity and solidarity, including the selfless service of medical personnel, providers of basic services, law enforcement personnel, and agents of pastoral care.
“We wish to pray for all the people who are suffering during this crisis – in particular the sick, the elderly, the poor, the excluded, and children experiencing family instability,” as well as all of those who have died.
Concrete signs of EU responsibility
The Catholic and Protestant leaders also urge EU decision-makers and member states “to continue acting in a determined, transparent, empathetic, and democratic way.” They pray for wisdom and strength for all European leaders.
Finally, church leaders call for “concrete expressions” of shared European responsibility.
These, they say, could include “burden-sharing in the care for the sick, a facilitated exchange of medical materials, creative measures alleviating social, economic, and financial shocks, as well as reinforced international cooperation and humanitarian assistance to support weaker health systems in needy regions of the world.”
As Christians journey through Lent toward Easter, Catholic and Protestant leaders ask everyone to consider “this time of trial as a time of grace and hope.”
“Let us remain united and make our closeness felt to all, especially those in need.”