UCA News


Faith in the time of Covid-19

Maybe Covid-19 shut down our churches so that we could look around and 'worship God in spirit and in truth'

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Faith in the time of Covid-19

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez leads an online Sunday service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels with the church's doors closed to the public on March 22 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Apu Gomes/ AFP)

Share this article :
It is a tragic understatement to say that the coronavirus and the Covid-19 disease it causes have turned our world upside down. The fact is that the virus has totally shattered our lives.

Perhaps not in a hundred years, since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 which destroyed more lives than the Great War, have so many countries, so many peoples of the world, been fear-stricken and traumatized.

How has the virus has impacted our lives of faith — religious faith, that is.

Since the virus is largely spread through interpersonal contact, government authorities have banned all groups in close proximity — and so all public transport systems and common recreation areas have been closed.

Members of almost all religions gather together to pray and worship. Once again by government fiat, religious believers of all persuasions have been compelled to keep a social distance from each other.  For the first time in living memory, Sunday Masses and similar services have been proscribed around the  world.

Television, radio and the internet have quickly stepped in to provide virtual services to those compelled to stay at home. Of course, it’s not the same. So even though most of us know that this condition will not last forever, we are upset.

How does Covid-19 challenge our faith? It has compelled us to make our faith more personal, to rethink the way in which we believe.

For many of us, creatures of habit, faith is a mechanical exercise, routinely performed on Sundays in the company of friends and family. It’s something which soothes but no longer challenges. Now for the first time — as in times of political persecution — we cannot take faith for granted.

In other words, we are asked to move from fideism — blind faith — to a discerning belief. 

And what should we discern?  All of us love this technological culture of ours for giving us the amenities and comforts of modern living — automobiles, refrigeration, air travel, computers and the internet. We can’t imagine life without them.

But we rarely think about how this very technological culture has impoverished and polluted the earth, and distanced us from nature.

Indeed global warming, acid rain and extremes of weather have alerted many to the fact that all is not right in our technological world. Covid-19 brings this home with shattering clarity. To our utter dismay, we find that as simple a symptom as coughing and sneezing may have the lethal potentiality to infect and kill.

To wake up this world

So the challenge to our faith lies in ways we usually don’t think about, such as to live a life more in tune with nature in terms of diet, work and leisure.

So much of this world today is based on greed and violence. Can we live more simply so that others may simply live? This will change the way we look at the earth and at our world.

For all pandemics point to a relationship of tension between human beings and their surroundings, a relationship gone askew. Every epidemic, be it the plague, cholera, AIDS or the coronavirus, becomes a metaphor telling us that humanity has broken its original covenant with nature, and that nature demands retribution. For how long will our world be infected with the virus of avarice, ambition and violence?

So is Covid-19 a wake-up call to us all, telling us that our way of life is no longer sustainable and that we need to change course drastically? Perhaps it is.

To wake up the Church

In a strange way, Covid-19 is also another wake-up call for the Church. The first wake-up call came in the early 1960s with Vatican  II.

By shutting down liturgical services in a church building, Catholics are forced to question the way in which they pray, worship and profess their faith. In other words, they are asked to move from fideism to a discerning belief. 

And what should they discern? That their faith today must necessarily become interfaith, where Catholics reach out ecumenically to the other churches in worship and service; and in dialogue with those of other beliefs, with respect and peace-keeping.

But for this we need a new leadership in the Church — an inclusive leadership.

There’s an urgent need to respond to the desires of Asian, African and Latin American cultures, to the desires of women and the young to exercise authority in service and prophecy. These are desires as yet unfulfilled.

But the old wineskins of a male, white leadership are just too threadbare and patch-ridden for the heady new wines.

And yes, maybe the sole reason why Covid-19 shut down our churches is so that we could look around and “worship God in spirit and in truth.” (John: 4.24)

Once again, Pope Francis has the last word, as when he spoke recently of those who feel trapped by the coronavirus: “May the Lord help you to discover new ways, new expressions of love, living as you do in this new situation. For in the end, this is a beautiful and creative opportunity to rediscover ourselves.”

Father Myron Pereira SJ is a media consultant based in Mumbai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."