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The Novel Coronavirus And Christian Faith

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According to global surveys, for many people, this time of confinement or quarantine is being used to reflect on their life and its meaning. It may indeed be an appropriate time for introspection: a time to examine our intentions, feelings, hopes and beliefs. It may be a time to face basic questions of life: Who am I? Where am I going? What is essential and what is accidental in my life? What are the priorities of my life? Do I act mainly for self-interest, or duty, or love? How do I face my possible death or the death of a loved one?


The novel coronavirus is in itself an evil to be fought by all.  We are citizens and Christians. As citizens, we are asked by our humanity and faith to be good citizens (cf. I Pet 2:11-17). As good citizens we are obedient to the specific norms concerning the Covid-19 pandemic and strive to be respectful to everyone, grateful, co-responsible, humble, just, and in solidarity with all the suffering. As Christians, we believe that God is our Father and that all humans are his children. In a Christian perspective, solidarity, which perfects justice, is an authentic expression of the love of neighbour. Solidarity is perfected in a fraternity, and fraternity in filiation: we are children of God and brothers and sisters of one another – of all others - in Christ.

With our co-citizens, we believers are grateful to all those who are helping us face and fight the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying effectively and spiritually the suffering and the dying, and their families. We are grateful particularly to health care providers and many others who are working in the front lines to help the affected by Covid-19. We add to this list, priests and religious women and men and lay volunteers who are also in the front lines helping humanely and spiritually the infected and their families and praying for the dead and acquiring in the process – and at times succumb to - the terrible new coronavirus. Volunteers from different NGOs are praised – as they should be - for their charitable work. We add as another fact: Caritas, the face of Christ in the world, the social arm of the Church, the community of men and women who are working full time throughout the world in thousands of parishes, homes for the aged, hospitals and slums in many countries.

To be grateful entails imitating the generosity of others by becoming generous ourselves and thus imitate the mercy of God. As Christians, we believe that God is infinitely merciful with all, principally with the most vulnerable, the sick, the abandoned, the poor and all those on the margins of life. In the case of Covid-19, the most vulnerable are the elderly, the disabled, and the poor, who constitute the priority concern of the Church, of the believers in Jesus. When health care recourses are scarce – intensive care units (ICUs), mechanical ventilators –, the main reason for prioritization of intensive treatment medicine among patients should never be age, old age (ageism and gerontophobia), but the medical outlook: diagnosis and prognosis. All humans are equal in dignity and rights, and therefore equal cases deserve equal treatment. As citizens and as Christians we are pro-life from the moment of conception to natural death.

It is important to underline that the “accompaniment and the spiritual and religious support constitute part of the rights of the patient” (Spanish National Ethics Committee, April 2020). It is very unfortunate – and inhuman - that many families were not able to say goodbye to their loved ones, who died alone and lonely. From the perspective of faith, palliative care for the dying must be given – as much as possible. This comfort care includes medical, social and spiritual care.

As believers in God, who is love, and in the afterlife we face the novel coronavirus with hope, patience and courage. With many others, the followers of Jesus are hopeful: we are pilgrims – all humans are - on the way to our Father’s house; not passive but committed witnesses of love and compassion here and now. We are patient:  Christian hope is patient (cf. Rom 5:3-5; Jm 1:2-4), patient through life and particularly when facing suffering and death. We are courageous: the virtue of patience is intimately connected with the cardinal virtue of courage or fortitude - Thomas Merton speaks of the fortitude of patience -, a good habit that inclines the possessors to face dangers with the strength of soul and to bear the hardships of life with certain tranquillity and serenity.




One of the radical problems of our secular age is the absence of God, or worse, the systematic exclusion of God from life. Denied, or exiled, God is very much present in the life of humanity. God is present in a special way, in our sufferings: “Christ does not want to suffer; He shares it” (J. L. Martin Descalzo).  The Crucified Lord is particularly present in those who suffer and accompanies and gives them the strength to be able to make of their pains and hurts a healing wound of love: “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example … By his wounds, we have been healed” (I Pet 2:21, 24). The cross of the Christian is a cross of hope that points to the Resurrection of Christ – to our own resurrection: “Through his death and resurrection, Jesus turned sunset into sunrise” (St. Clement of Alexandria).

The Covid-19 pandemic has made us realize in a dramatic way that we all are fragile, mortal:  memento mori (remember that you must die), Nemini parco (I spare no one). For us Christians – and many other believers -, death is not the last word of life, but a part of life. The last word is love, God’s love, which permeates our hope and our faith – our earthly life. Like suffering, death may also become a redemptive death, when it is lived as a death in God, and joined to Christ’s redemptive and victorious death (cf. Rom 6:3-5). The new coronavirus continues causing thousands of deaths. This dark reality may help us face and accept our own death and thus help others accept theirs. “Lord, teach us the shortness of life, that we may gain wisdom of heart” (Ps 90:12). A parish priest in New York, Father John Devaney OP, who cares for the dying of the coronavirus in hospitals says: “I started to think about, maybe I could get this. Maybe it could kill me.” He continued: “What gives me hope is that in the Catholic funeral liturgy, it says, life hasn’t ended, it has changedSo for me, the hope is that there is a supernatural reality we can’t see, that there is eternal life, life in eternity. And that death doesn’t have the final word.” (Quoted by Elizabeth Bruenig, “Came the Coronavirus,” The New York Times, April 13, 2020).

Is the novel coronavirus pandemic God’s punishment? None can say that Covid-19 is God’s punishment unless God revealed it to him or her. As a believer in Jesus, who is God’s face of mercy, I cannot interpret the new coronavirus pandemic as God’s collective, global punishment. Are not the great majority of the deceased from the new virus basically good people?  Is our generation more sinful that the previous one? I remember Jesus’ words: “Do you think that because these Galileans (“whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices”) who suffered in this way were worse sinners than others? No…  Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them - do you think that they were worse offenders than all others living in Jerusalem: No…” As disciples of Jesus, we believe that God will be our Judge at the end of time – not now, but at the end of time. “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (Jn 12:47). Jesus told those in Jerusalem – and us: “Unless you repent you will perish just as they did” (Lk 13:1-5). May the pandemic be a warning from above?  Personally, I interpret it as an opportunity to strive harder to be a good human being and a Christian: prayerful and compassionate.  

God the Father is the perfect Father, the loving “motherly Father whose power is mercy” (J. Moltman). God, like a good Father, may and does punish us at times for our sins - medicinal and restorative punishment - to help you and me be better and happier: to repent, to be reconciled with him, with myself, with others and with creation. And thus be renewed (cf. I Cor. 11:32; Heb 12:5-11).  

The Covid-19, like other pandemics and natural calamities, do not come from God but from our finite nature, and often from our abuse of freedom and lack of respect for creation and its laws. “God does not want to suffer; He is present in a silent way” (E. Schillebeeckx). Suffering is part of our finite nature. We live in an imperfect world. God created the world “in the state of the way towards ultimate perfection” (CCC, 310).  "Man has the right and the power to modify nature. But reckless intrusion into nature combines arrogance with the practice of virtual destruction" (R. Shinn).

Still, we have to add, the relationship of an infinitely merciful and omnipotent God with evil, particularly as the suffering of the innocent ones, is a mystery partly unveiled for believers by Jesus the Son of God: He died on the cross for all humans and accompanies us all, especially when we are hurting. We strongly believe that God is with us in this terrible calamity. “Pain and suffering are not anymore ‘a punishment, a malediction’ from the moment the Son of God took them upon himself. God is our ally, not of the virus” (Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, Good Friday, April 10, 2020, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican).


To be able to find meaning to our sufferings and to ask God to heal us, we need to pray.  Prayer is an essential element of the Christian’s attitude facing the novel coronavirus. “Protect me, God, for in you I find refuge” (Ps14:1). Pope Francis is leading us to approach the coronavirus pandemic as believers in Jesus Christ. His Blessing Urbi et Orbe with the Blessed Sacrament (March 27, 2020) in an empty St. Peter’s Basilica was astonishing: so simple, so devout, so moving – and so sad!

Everything, even darkness, may have a positive side. Most Christians were unable to celebrate the liturgical services of Holy Week (2020), and thereafter, unable to be present physically and spiritually in the celebration of Sunday Eucharist. Certainly, our physical presence (we are body-soul, social beings) in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in the proclamation of the Sacred Scriptures in community, receiving Holy Communion cannot be substituted at all. Most Catholics, however, are doing their best in this situation of confinement and lockdowns: following the celebration of the Holy Eucharist online, practising spiritual communion, praying the Rosary in the internet. In some way, it is a wonderful feeling to be aware of the fact that thousands of families, millions of individuals are united in praying to God to stop the novel coronavirus pandemic, to give us all hope, patience and courage.

A Dominican from New York, Fr. Walter Wagner, who is deeply involved in caring for dying coronavirus patients: “The pandemic has withdrawn the familiar comforts of the faith, including confession, public worship and most crucially, communion.” Quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Wagner adds: God is not bound by the sacraments. God gives us tangible signs and effective signs, but God is not locked into that (Quoted by Elizabeth Bruenig, April 13, 2020).

Certainly, “it is not the same to watch a Mass on television - live streaming - than to feel even physically that one is part of an assembly of Christians, of a people that sing together the praises of the Lord and give Him thanks for his benefits” (Martin Gelabert OP,, Mayo 20, 2020). I remember a middle-aged woman coming out of the Cathedral of Malaga (end of May 2020), after having participated in her first Mass after the strict confinement. She looked so radiant, so happy. She was asked, why? “Because,” she answered, “I have received the Lord!”

Is the novel coronavirus an opportunity for us, for all to change? Like others before, this lethal pandemic will pass, and tomorrow will be better. It will indeed be better if we practice tomorrow what we have learned and practised today: to be respectful of all, united, grateful and sorrowful, and co-responsible, generous and grateful, humble and just, and in solidarity with those who suffer. With many others and thanks to God’s love, we are prayerful and compassionate.  

By Fr. Fausto Gómez, OP.