The Center of Ecumenical, Missiological, and Environmental Studies (CEMES) and the inter-Orthodox Master Program of the International Hellenic University (IHU) “Orthodox Ecumenical Theology (MOET) organized a week-long (6-11 April, 2020) Web-Seminar on “Religious Communities and Church in a Period of Pandemic,” a crisis that not only endangered the public health, but the necessary precautionary measures taken worldwide have also challenged the core of the Church’s identity.

The seminar brought together scholars from all over the world (15 countries from all five continents: USA, Russia, UK, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Syria, Ukraine, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey, Georgia, Greece), to reflect on the present COVID-19 Pandemic and the way it affected the Churches. It was conducted by the CEMES teaching staff of MOET and its Director, Emer. Prof. Petros Vassiliadis, and it was offered  by the authorities of IHU that provided the electronic facilities, as an open space to reflect in common on the various aspects of the ecclesiastical life throughout the world by sharing information and scholarly views on the subject.

It was divided in 5 sessions, covering all areas of the theological discipline, and not only. The Biblical and Liturgical  session dealt with the profound nature and the various Christian practices regarding the Divine Eucharist, as well as the Eucharistic event in cases of physical distancing.

The Historical session covered the data and implications of the major pandemics, both of antiquity and the Early Church during the persecutions and in the Middle Ages and modern times.

The Theological and Ecclesiological session concentrated on the theological  understanding of experiencing the mystery of the Church, the Eucharistic and Baptismal Theology and the experience and practices in a period of pandemic.

The Ecumenical and Interfaith session covered the various attitudes, historically and theologically, of other churches and religions, focusing on the journey toward the unity of humanity and the visible unity of the Church.

The Missiological and Pastoral session focused on the sense of witness rendered by the Christian world over the centuries in times of epidemic/pandemic and other similar crises.

Short courses were offered by almost all (17) teaching staff of MOET, renowned scholars from abroad (10) and from other scholarly disciplines (Evangelos Venizelos AUTH, Dimitrios Stamatopoulos, PAMAK), bishop Lazar Puhalo, 7 academic priests and few younger Ph.D. and Master holders. All their presentations were discussed and evaluated in the 6th final day by the 200+ participants.

The purpose of this seminar was to present the level of the master programs offered by IHU, and MOET in particular, and to use the present pandemic crisis as a meaningful storm for an overall renewal in the Orthodox Church and beyond. It was highly appreciated in their evaluation by all participants requesting similar monthly events, as well as an Open Letter to be sent to the Churches.