Coronavirus and religion – update 8 April 2020

By Lianne Kolirin

  • The Board of the Jewish Chronicle has just announced that it is going into liquidation. Here’s the statement  “With great sadness, the Board of the Jewish Chronicle has taken the decision to seek a creditors voluntary liquidation of Jewish Chronicle Newspapers Ltd.  Despite the heroic efforts of the editorial and production team at the newspaper, it has become clear that the Jewish Chronicle will not be able to survive the impact of the current coronavirus epidemic in its current form.  The liquidation is expected to be finalised in the coming 2 to 3 weeks and every effort will be made to ensure that the paper continues to be published over this period and the website continues to provide regular updates. The Kessler Foundation, owners of the Jewish Chronicle, are actively working to secure a future for the Jewish Chronicle after the liquidation. Further announcements regarding this will be made in the coming days. Editor Stephen Pollard tweeted:  “Devastating news for us at @JewishChron  (and @JewishNewsUK). I won’t be saying anything beyond confirming that the paper will be out as usual next week, and we have every intention of avoiding any interruption. thejc.com continues, too”
  • The Pope has offered a message of hope in his first interview with a British journalist. The current pandemic is a “place of conversion” that must not slip away, he told papal biographer Austen Ivereigh in an interview published exclusively by The Tablet and Commonweal. “What we are living now is a place of conversion, and we have the chance to begin. So let’s not let it slip from us, and let’s move ahead,” he said in a recorded audio reply to questions from Ivereigh. Catholics, like other worshippers around the world, have been forced to follow livestreamed services and pray at home after churches closed their doors in the coronavirus crisis. “We can either get depressed and alienated – through media that can take us out of our reality – or we can get creative,” he said. Francis described key workers, such as frontline health practitioners, as “the saints who live next door”. He added: “They are heroes: doctors, volunteers, religious sisters, priests, shop workers – all performing their duty so that society can continue functioning. How many doctors and nurses have died! How many religious sisters have died! All serving…” Pope Francis said the Vatican was now planning for the “tragic and painful” aftermath of the crisis.”
  • Celebrating Passover this year will be “exceptionally difficult”, admits Britain’s Chief Rabbi. The eight-day festival, which traditionally begins with a big feast and religious service known as a seder – this year on April 8th, is the “ultimate family-orientated event”, according to Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Speaking to Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 Live, Rabbi Mirvis said lockdown would mean families would be not able to gather together as is traditional, making this year “very challenging”. Nevertheless, positives have emerged. “I am so impressed and so inspired to the extent that people are helping others, taking them parcels of food and guaranteeing that those who are by themselves should never actually feel alone and to know that they are part of a community and part of a caring society,” he said. His words came as Israel extended its social distancing measures before Passover. The government has imposed a curfew from 3pm today until 7am tomorrow. Inter-city travel has been prohibited since 4pm yesterday until 6am on Friday, with public transport suspended until Sunday morning.
  • Funerals should be temporarily banned, a humanist celebrant has said. Lorraine Barrett, a former Welsh assembly member, told the BBC that a complete prohibition on funerals would protect both the family of the deceased and the crematorium and burial workers during the coronavirus crisis. Guidance on burials and cremations appears to vary, which according to Mrs Barrett, has created a “mishmash of different approaches to the funeral process”. She called on both UK and Welsh governments to “look seriously at non-attendance funerals, if only for a few weeks”. Instead, Mrs Barrett, who has conducted no funeral services since early March, recommended that the bereaved “focus on the future” by planning memorial services.
  • Seven African countries will benefit from a faith-based collaborative response to the Covid-19 emergency. The IMA World Health, a faith-based charity that procures and distributes medical supplies and services to underdeveloped countries, has teamed up with the Africa Christian Health Associations Platform to respond to the coronavirus crisis. The two groups will work together in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. Their efforts will focus on providing information, technical assistance, equipment and supplies. IMA World Health has also been running an operation, along with the UK government, in Tanzania. There, it has helped set up a call centre to provide essential health information about the pandemic.