Dear Confreres and Lay Spiritan Associates,
At its meeting on 15th February 2021, the General Council reviewed the current global situation in regard to the Covid-19 pandemic and decided regrettably to postpone the General Chapter indefinitely once again. In view of the recent escalation in the number of infections in several countries and the emergence of new and more contagious variants of the virus, stricter international travel restrictions have been introduced across the globe. Travel to and from Europe, in particular, is now confined to essential purposes, a situation that may last for quite some time to come. In addition, despite the production of a number of effective vaccines, it will be many months before inoculation will be available to the entire population of different countries, with poorer nations, unfortunately, likely to face much longer delays in this regard.
Against this background, the possibility of convening a large gathering of people from different nations across the globe in Poland in May/June of this year, as we had planned, is quite remote. In addition, attention must clearly be given to ensuring a safe environment for the participants at the Chapter with every reasonable precaution being taken to protect the health of all involved. The uncertainties still surrounding the effectiveness of the current vaccines against the variants that have already been identified, together with the possibility of further mutations of the virus in the future, make it effectively impossible at this point to predict with any degree of certainty when such an international meeting might take place. If Poland is retained as the venue, where winter months effectively preclude such a gathering, it seems unlikely that we will be able to hold the General Chapter before Spring 2022, at the earliest. However, the General Council will continue to monitor the situation in dialogue with the Provincial Council in Poland and will also look into the possibility of holding the Chapter before the end of the current calendar year at a non-European venue where international access may be more feasible and a safe environment can be ensured.
In the meantime, we wish to express our communion and prayerful solidarity with the circumscriptions that have been most directly affected by the pandemic of recent times, in particular with the Provinces of Ireland and France that have unfortunately seen a significant number of Covid-related deaths in their retirement communities, and with confreres and their family members who are suffering and ill across the Spiritan world. The words of the Jewish philosopher and theologian, Martin Buber, which echo the spirituality of Francis Libermann, seem particularly appropriate in the present exceptional times: Buber invites us “to live in the consciousness that the proper place for our encounter with God lies in the ever-changing situation of life” and “to hear God’s voice in a different way in the language spoken by unforeseen and changed situations”.
We pray for patience, acceptance, courage and wisdom in these uncertain times in the conviction that our personal and collective futures are secure in God’s loving hands.
Yours fraternally in the Holy Spirit,
John Fogarty, C.S.Sp.