The Vatican Synod Pro-Secretary has warned the Church against the “suicide” of returning to old pastoral models post-COVID-19.

– Coronavirus lockdowns, “a kairos for renewal and pastoral creativity”

Maltese prelate Mario Grech, who was Bishop of Gozo before being named to his new post in the Roman Curia in October last year, launched the warning in a letter to Gozo priests that he explained in an interview with Vatican Media and that was subsequently “adapted and translated” and posted on the Synod website.

In that interview, Grech cautioned the Church, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, against reducing pastoral activity “to the sacristy, away from the streets, or simply being content to projecting the life of the sacristy on to the streets”.

The Synod Pro-Secretary said that far from serving as an excuse to go back “to the practices that limited us before the pandemic”, the isolating and painful months of lockdown have presented the Church with “an opportunity (a kairos) for renewal and pastoral creativity” which it is being called to seize with both hands.

– Church must combat “strong pattern of clericalism” that emerged during confinement

As to the shape of the new pastoral models the Church must embrace after COVID-19, Grech highlighted that these, first and foremost, must serve to bury once and for all the “strong pattern of clericalism” that emerged in both the ordained and laypeople over the weeks of confinement.

Though it reared its head with particular intensity in the weeks of the pandemic, Grech said clericalism has in actual fact been eating away at the “nature and charism of the family in as much as it is the domestic church” since at least the fourth century.

So it is that, for Grech, in the aftermath of COVID-19 the family must again become the principal “school of catechesis and a classroom of liturgy” and the Church – along with respecting the family as the privileged way to live the faith – must also redouble its efforts in diakonia, or the “ministry of service”.

“One cannot celebrate the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread and of the Word, if one does not share with the poor who are theologically the face of Christ”, the prelate explained.

– “Disastrous” if Church were to follow those who want “to keep singing yesterday’s song”

Speaking to Vatican Media, Grech said that another priority for the Church after the coronavirus must be the further development of synodality, which he described as a “style of collaboration for inter-personal relationships and human fraternity” useful not only for the Church but also for wider society.

After that interview, though, the Maltese prelate returned to the subject of new pastoral models after COVID-19 in a TV appearance in his country, in which he again warned that retreating to worn-out traditions and practices will cause the Church to disconnect from post-COVID-19 society.

“I am afraid that if we, as a Church, keep on repeating the same schemes, and producing the same services that we gave until yesterday, we will not be in line with the culture of the times”, the prelate insisted.

“If we do not provide a service for the contemporary individual, the people of today, what reason do we have to exist?”, he queried.

Though Grech pointed to the online Masses and other initiatives that emerged during COVID-19 as one area in which the Church can continue to innovate, the prelate warned that this “digital pastoral” must not become an impersonalised “mass production” of services but must instead always connect with people.

Still, Grech said that the kind of innovation that emerged with coronavirus Masses on TV and in streaming represents the kind of “pastoral preoccupation” for revitalisation that he said is widespread among the Catholic hierarchy.

Even if, Grech added, there is “another current” in the Church that wants to remain in the past.

“There is the current that does not want to move, that wants us to keep singing yesterday’s song, and if we continue swimming in these waters, I think it would be disastrous”, the prelate warned.

More on Novena on the Church after COVID-19:

Three out of four Spanish priests seek “new pastoral model” after COVID-19, group suggests Masses without bishops or priests

More on Bishop Grech:

New Synod pro-secretary tells Catholics: “Don’t try to stop change”

New Synod pro-secretary a defender of migrants, remarried Catholics, same-sex couples


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.