12 Mar Coronavirus: Letter of the General Minister
TO ALL OF THE BROTHERS OF THE ORDER
May the Lord give you peace!
Over the course of these past more than three months since the discovery of the new Coronavirus, we have witnessed its progressive proliferation from one specific region in China to more than 115 countries. Virtually the entire human community finds itself engaged in a major battle to try to contain its further spread, care for those who are infected (more than 126,000), and mourn loved ones who have died (more than 4,500). The economic impact on nations, families, individuals, and most especially on the poor will, undoubtedly, be catastrophic.
In the early stages of this pandemic we might have found ourselves feeling protected, immune, distant, and perhaps even a bit unconcerned with the virus and its impact. However, as the virus continues its seemingly unrelenting spread, we find ourselves at the epicenter of a crisis. There are still many scientific aspects of the virus that are not yet fully understood. It respects no borders or boundaries: physical, social, psychological, religious, or cultural. Its strategic capacity to jump from one host to another makes it particularly virulent. The responses that are being designed and implemented by governments to halt its proliferation are making demands on many of us that restrict the exercise of our personal freedoms the likes of which many of us have never experienced. And yet, these measures are necessary to prevent further advance of the virus. Special prayers go out to those who are serving on the front lines as medical personnel, those engaged in research to find a vaccine, and governments struggling to find effective responses to ensure the safety and well-being of their people.
My intention in writing to you at this time is to try to help allay fears and anxiety. For those of us living in countries that are to date disproportionately affected, I wish to encourage you to remain strong in your faith. For those living in countries experiencing fewer infections, remain vigilant in all things. During this special liturgical season of Lent, Christian believers are invited to accompany Jesus, recalling the great struggles and crises he faced, recalling also his death on the cross as a sacrifice of pure love. But neither suffering nor death had the final word over his life, nor should they have over our lives. The hope provided by the resurrection, and by daily acts of justice, mercy, and love should inspire us to look beyond all fear, all anxiety, and perceive the presence of Jesus who continues to speak the same words to us as he did to his beloved friends and disciples: “Have no fear! I am with you until the end of the age!”
In the midst of this global epidemic, let us not lose sight of the many millions of people around the globe who are suffering from other crises. Our hearts go out in a special way to the people of Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Venezuela, Mindanao, the Republics of Sudan and South Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, and to brothers and sisters living in other parts of the world where human dignity, fundamental rights, and basic physical survival are under threat. Let us seize the invitation for us to move beyond all divisions, all fears, and seek the paths leading to authentic dialogue, cooperation, and the promotion of the well-being of all of humanity, most especially those who are poor and excluded. Let us also deepen our commitment to love and care for the natural environment, our common home.
May the Lord bless each of you, my dear brothers, and may we allow the strength of our convictions, our commitment to the Gospel way of life inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, to enable us to be faithful witnesses to the power of the love and hope that our faith offer to us, indeed, to all of life.
Rome, March 12, 2020
Fraternally yours in Christ and St. Francis,
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant