An Orthodox Journal of Cross-Cultural Theology, Dialogue and Mission

The Challenge of a Worldwide Pandemic for Orthodox Christians

Prof. Mary B. Cunningham
DOI: 10.57577/1-22A20
Salt: Crossroads of Religion and Culture: 1 (2022): 311-315
Keywords: Covid 19, Patristic tradition, Byzantine heritage, philanthropy, Orthodox social ethics, diaconia

This essay, which was first delivered as a talk (1 June 2020) in the ‘Lockdown Conversations’ series run by the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, addresses the situation of Orthodox Christians in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. First, in the light of biblical teaching that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, I argue that we, as Christians, should hold our governments and care providers to account when we see this principle being breached. Second, I suggest that the coronavirus crisis provides us with an opportunity for balancing a ‘vertical’ experience of God with more ‘horizontal’ expressions of love and care for our neighbours.



Humanity is currently facing a major challenge in the form of the pandemic, known as the Coronavirus or Covid 19, that has swept the globe since November 2019. The disease is particularly cruel because it affects the weaker members of our populations the most: a disproportionate number of people who are over seventy years of age or who have pre-existing medical conditions have contracted a severe form of the illness and died. It has also been noted that people of Black, Asian, and other minority communities are more susceptible to catching the virus. Medical services around the world are struggling to cope and economies have temporarily shut down, thus causing further suffering as people lose their jobs and become destitute. The Orthodox Churches have been temporarily forced to close their buildings and, for the most part, to stop functioning in a public way—although some bishops and priests have been able to continue to celebrate the services, digitally streaming or televising these to the faithful.