'Our souls are coming to the fore': The impact of pandemic on faith

  • Video report by ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham

Of all the ghastly threats posed by Covid-19, surely one of its most pernicious is the attack on the fabric of family and community life.

In lockdown some of those who've felt this most deeply are faith communities: scattered from their places of worship. And at a time of year when the three leading world religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity mark their most solemn festivals. Passover, Easter and now Ramadan - all moved online. Weddings, baptisms postponed. Funeral practices painfully reconsidered.

I know what this upheaval feels like. As a practising - but admittedly not very good Catholic, I haven't been to Mass in my parish church for weeks.

On a Sunday I'm used to seeing the families among whom we've raised our children: sharing First Holy Communion ceremonies, then Confirmation - watching them grow, making friends with elderly neighbours we wouldn't necessarily have ever met if it weren't for our parish.

It's an intricate web of relationships that matter deeply. During the sign of peace in Mass, we shake hands with all those around us. I struggle to imagine when we might do that again, however the lockdown ends.

Instead I take my boys to online Mass in our sitting room - the priest celebrating the service in an empty church. The dog often joins us. It still gives us beautiful pause in the week - a structure to the weekend - and connects us to the local and global Catholic community. But there is no substitute for the moment you catch a friend's eye - the comfort of a shared space, the quiet rattle of someone's rosary - or in the deepest and religious sense: Communion.

Julie Etchingham interviews Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Credit: ITV News

During lockdown I've interviewed the leaders of the RC and Anglican churches here in the UK - and the Chief Imam of Leeds Central Mosque. Tonight we hear from the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

Though each has faced different challenges: they share the view that - whether we are religious or not - the lockdown has presented us with insight we might not otherwise have had.

"We've got ample opportunity to look into ourselves," Rabbi Mirvis tells me.

"To take a step back, to appreciate the priorities in our life - and to also appreciate our own mortality. Our souls are coming to the fore."

And a note of hope, from a faith community which has endured trials like no other.

"This is my big hope for the future, that a silver lining emerging from these dark clouds will be one in which our society will turn out to be a far better one.

"Since 1945 we've been living in a post-war era - from 2020 we will be living in a post virus era and its in our hands now to set a tone... in which there will be greater peace on earth, a greater sense of unity - and appreciation for the sacred nature of every single human life."

Amen. Let it be.

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