Synthesis of Responses of the Bishops’ Conferences to the 2021 PCPCU Survey on COVID-19

A Working Paper


Ecumenical Panel, Institute for Ecumenical Studies
20 January 2022


Cardinal Kurt Koch


Your Excellences,
Reverend Father Ioan Sauca,
Esteemed Professors,
Dear Students of the Ecumenical Institutes of Bossey and of the Angelicum,


Reading the signs of the times has always been an important part of the journey of Christians towards unity. The call of the Second Vatican Council to “scrutinize the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of the Gospel” is made not only in Gaudium et spes (GS 4), but also in Unitatis redintegratio exhorting “all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times” (UR 4). Undoubtedly, with its tragic worldwide consequences in all spheres, the COVID-19 pandemic is one of these signs.

With this conviction, the PCPCU has engaged in a reflection on ecumenism in a time of pandemic, on the basis of the local experiences and reflections. On 19 January 2021 a questionnaire was sent to the Ecumenical officers of all Catholic Bishops’ Conferences and Eastern Catholic Synods. The survey, made available in different languages, asked various questions concerning the consequences of the pandemic, both positive and negative, on ecumenical relations and activities at the local level.

Out of 142 questionnaires, our Dicastery received 88 responses, from all continents, which is already an encouraging result witnessing to the interest in the topic. The responses were generally extensive and candid, and appreciative of the initiative. In a spirit of synodality, the project has also been an occasion to strengthen cooperation between the PCPCU and the Ecumenical officers.

Prepared in collaboration with the Institute for Ecumenical Studies of the Pontifical University Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, a working paper, entitled “Ecumenism in a Time of Pandemic: From Crisis to Opportunity”, has been drafted on the basis of the responses and sent to all Members and Consultors of the PCPCU, who discussed it during its Plenary assembly of 10 November 2021. A final version has been sent to the Bishops’ Conference, asking for their input. Our Dicastery expresses its deep gratitude to all those who offered their valuable contribution to this initiative.

This working paper, launched today, offers a synthesis of the Bishops’ responses to the survey, echoing their perspectives and quoting extensively from their reports. It does not pretend to respond to, nor to formulate all related questions, but is intended to be an initial contribution to the reflection. Even if it proposes also some initial theological considerations, its approach is first of all pastoral. It is also our aspiration that this paper will promote further reflection among scholars in ecumenical studies and stimulate dialogue at all levels with other Christians.

This is precisely the purpose of this Ecumenical panel organised during the week of prayer for Christian unity, gathering representatives and experts from different traditions and continents, to whom I present my regards and gratitude, wishing to all fruitful discussions and exchanges.