ROME — With all the uncertainty and suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Christian leaders have a duty to live out the Gospel of hope, said the leader of the Anglican Communion.
Everyone is facing the same storm, and “we should seek to look after ourselves and our communities, drawing strength and courage from one another and walking together,” Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury told Vatican News Nov. 17.
“Fear causes us to put up the barriers,” he said, and “the more people are gripped by fear, and the more those fears are played on and manipulated by political leaders, the more the church is called to demonstrate something else: hospitality, service and love.”
The interview came one year after the archbishop and Pope Francis met at the Vatican Nov. 13, 2019; his reflections focused on the new challenges that have emerged since then and the need for renewed hope.
“Fundamentally, our hope is in Jesus Christ,” whose steadfast love endures forever, the archbishop said.
The task of Christian leaders, he said, “is to testify to hope in difficult times. Jesus didn’t come to bring hope to a world where things were going well, but to a fragile and broken world — one full of fragile, damaged and sinful people. And what Jesus says to us is ‘do not fear.’ He is our hope.”
Christians show they are people of hope by the way they live together and help each other by “following the example of Jesus and his teaching to love our neighbor,” especially the vulnerable, poor and marginalized, he said.
In fact, he said, Pope Francis’s latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship, provides a clear vision of the individual and the community woven together, “rejecting the extremes of both and stressing their interdependence.”
“In the encyclical, there is a very moving section looking at the parable of the good Samaritan,” who “overrode nationalism and prejudice with unconditional love. In that relationship of love and care, there was no Jew or Samaritan but two human beings — one in need and one providing for that need,” he said.
“The Christian response to selfishness is love — a message that weaves through” the pope’s encyclical, he added.
Human beings tend to build barriers and mark their turf, even in the world of religion, not just politics, he said.
“What the ecumenical movement has done and continues to do is to chip away slowly at those frontiers” and build relationships of trust and friendship, the archbishop said.
Living and working among people of different denominations, he said, lead people to no longer regard the other as a stranger, but as “a fellow pilgrim; a friend; a sister or brother.”
Welby said he felt the best answers to questions posed by the pandemic are to be calm, courageous and compassionate.
Calm allows people to take stock of a situation and “act deliberately,” while courage and compassion were especially evident during periods of lockdown.
Though church doors were closed, and the sacramental life of the church was disrupted, “the church itself was open. Christians of all denominations were seeking out and helping others,” he said.
“It is clear that, in the face of a coronavirus pandemic we are all in it together,” he said.