After a too-long Lent, cardinal gives ideas for an extended Easter season

Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny arrives for a consistory led by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in this Oct. 5, 2019, file photo. Cardinal Czerny, writing in the Vatican newspaper, says after "400+ days" of Lent, Catholics need ways to celebrate a "proportional" Easter. His reference was to the COVID-19 pandemic. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After what feels like "a truly trying Lent of 400-plus days" because of the coronavirus pandemic, Christians need to "envisage and embrace" a season of Easter faith and hope that goes beyond the traditional 50 days, said Cardinal Michael Czerny.

However, the cardinal wrote in the Vatican newspaper, "there must be no nostalgia for a blithe return to our pre-COVID existence with a sigh of relief that our long Lent is finally over.”

The newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published the Canadian cardinal's article April 8 with the headline, "An Easter for rebirth after the long Lent of the pandemic." Cardinal Czerny is undersecretary for migrants and refugees at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The ongoing pandemic with its deaths and sickness, its restrictions and economic devastation naturally have left people "disoriented and discouraged," the cardinal wrote. Those sensations are reinforced by "the economic, health, political and environmental problems (and) the long-standing and worsening injustices" the pandemic "keeps uncovering and magnifying.”

And while the availability of vaccines is a cause for rejoicing, he said, part of the "sad and shameful 'normal' that we inherited from before COVID is the inability as a global community" to ensure an equitable distribution of the shots.

"Really," Cardinal Czerny wrote, "'back to normal' is never the right path, and most emphatically not correct after what we have seen these past 16 months.”

"The poorest paid workers in suspended sectors of the economy -- restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, tourist destinations, entertainment -- are suddenly destitute and left to fend for themselves," he said. "Migrant workers have faced restrictions that make it impossible to reach their place of employment, and then are unable to return home due to lack of money or closed borders.”

"Another global threat not suspended by the pandemic is climate change," the cardinal wrote. While "the onset of COVID-19 was sudden and specific, climate change is a long-term affair that began its modern course with the Industrial Revolution. Despite the differences, they combine in their ethical, social, economic, political and global relevance: They affect everyone on earth, and above all the life of the poorest and most fragile.”

But, Cardinal Czerny said, "veritable sanctuaries and schools of solidarity" have been formed and blossomed during the pandemic, whether taking the form of online gatherings or rallying volunteers to shop for the elderly or distribute food aid to those in need.

"Our hope, though battered during the pandemic, is not lost," he said.

Christians can live and spread their Easter joy by undergoing "an effective conversion which could decelerate, arrest and eventually reverse the climate crisis,” by advocating for a fair and speedy distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and by "welcoming new members into our communities and parishes, into our schools and economy, into our culture and society.”

Especially after a Lent that seems to have begun in February 2020 and just kept going, Cardinal Czerny said, "what Easter should bring -- should always bring but should especially bring this year -- is a ringing and life-changing boost in faith and hope: 'Do not be afraid!' The Risen Lord is with us.”