Rome (NEV), April 18, 2020 – “An ecumenical Easter message addressed to the Christians of Italy: it is a novelty, hopefully a welcomed one, that this anomalous Easter brings to us. We’ll almost all celebrate it individually or as a family, locked up in our homes to contain the infection. Every year, actually, there is a sort of ecumenical message, but on the occasion of the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”, which takes place from 18 to 25 January: the theme of the Week is jointly presented by the Catholic bishop Ambrogio Spreafico, President of the Episcopal Commission for Ecumenism, by Metropolitan Gennadios, Orthodox Archbishop of Italy and Malta, and by me Luca Maria Negro speaking as President of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI). But this year, close to the Easter of Resurrection, which our Churches will celebrate on different dates (April 12 in the western tradition, and April 19 in the eastern one), on the basis of the fraternity that derives from confessing the same Lord, we have felt the need to return and express ourselves together by pronouncing a common message in the face of the pandemic that hit our Country and the whole world. A world pandemic, then, which is sparing none of the world regions and which, in addition to causing discomfort, sufferings and death, will heavily condition the Easter celebrations of the Christian Churches, with the risk of clouding that feeling of joy that is typical of Easter time”.
The message starts from the Gospel Easter story according to Matthew, in which the resurrection of Jesus is announced by an earthquake and by the angel of the Lord who rolls the large stone of the tomb, causing a great fright in all those present – namely, the guards and the “pious women” who came to the sepulcher. But, while fear literally paralyzes the guards, the women welcome the angel’s invitation not to be afraid and, ascertained that the tomb is empty, they run away “with fear yet filled with joy”.
“A mixture of fear and joy that sets them in motion and makes them the first announcers of the resurrection. For this – continues the message – even in this time of contagion, we want to accept the angel’s invitation: “Do not be afraid”. In compliance with the rules of prudence which we must continue to respect, so preventing the spread of the pandemic, as Churches we feel called to be, like the pious women, announcers of the resurrection, of the fact that death does not have the last word. This pandemic also strengthens in us the vocation to be together, in this divided world and at the same time united in suffering, witnesses of humanity and of hospitality, attentive to the needs of everyone and particularly of the least, the poor, the marginalized”.
The message ends with an invitation to the prayer that unites all Christians: “Our Father who is in heaven … deliver us from evil”.