“Do not be afraid” is the title of the ecumenical message for Easter 2020 signed by the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Federation of Evangelical Churches. The text bears the signature of Bishop Ambrogio Spreafico, president of CEI’s episcopal commission for Ecumenism and inter-religious dialogu.
The message was also signed by Metropolita Gennadios, Orthodox archbishop of Italy and Malta and Exarch for southern Europe, an ecumenical patriarchate. Baptist Pastor Luca Maria Negro represents the Evangelical Churches in Italy.
Churches united against this pandemic
In the document the representatives of the various religious faiths explain why they felt the need to draw up a joint message for Easter 2020. “On the basis of the fraternity that derives from confessing the same Lord, we felt the need to express ourselves together again”, write the religious leaders.
Theirs is “a common word and response for the pandemic that has affected our country and the whole world. A global pandemic that spares no one“. A terrible emergency that “besides causing discomfort, suffering and death, will affect the Easter celebrations of the Christian Churches. With the risk of clouding that feeling of joy that is typical of Easter time”.
Do not be afraid
The ecumenical message recalls that “in the Gospel of Matthew the resurrection of Jesus is announced first by an earthquake and immediately after by the angel of the Lord who rolls the large stone of the sepulcher, causing in all present, guards and pious women, a great scare. The representatives of the religious faiths point out that the fear mentioned in the Gospel passage is different from how we commonly understand it.
It is a very different fear. That of the guards is a fear that makes trembling and paralyzes. While that of women is a fear combined with great joy, thanks to the announcement of the angel. A mixture of fear and joy that sets them in motion and makes them the first announcers of the resurrection“.
Rebirth after suffering
“This is why – highlight the religious leaders – even in this time of contagion, we want to accept the angel’s invitation not to be afraid. In compliance with the safety rules to which we must continue to comply to prevent the spread of the pandemic, as churches we feel called to be announcers of the resurrection. Death doesn’t have the final say.
The gift of the dead and risen Christ is transformation, renewal and rebirth. This pandemic strengthens our vocation to stay together, in this world divided and at the same time united in suffering. Together as witnesses of humanity and hospitality, attentive to the needs of everyone and especially the poor, the marginalized. Feeling special gratitude to God for the those who work tirelessly alongside those who suffer”.