Based on recent events involving COVID-19, the Institute for Communication and Religion is sharing work that demonstrates how faith communities engage with public health challenges. Ines Murzaku, Ph.D., professor of Religion and director of the Catholic Studies Program, recently wrote two essays which share important historical and theological perspective on how the Church has engaged past public health challenges.
Murzaku's essay "Cura corporis and cura animae: The Church and the Coronavirus Crisis" focuses on the need for physicians of the body and soul for the sick and healthy. Murzaku sheds light on the role of the church in past crises and references famous medieval physician Tommaso del Garbo, who witnessed the epidemic of 1348 in the urban cities of Europe. Del Garbo advised priests who braved pestilence on how to protect themselves as the front-liners of the human spirit.
In "Pope Francis, the coronavirus, and a famous 200-year-old Italian novel," Murzaku focuses on Pope Francis' reference to Alessandro Manzoni's novel I Promessi Sposi. Pope Francis states, "Priests mustn't be the don Abbondio of the situation," but rather be the Capuchin friars. "Some, like the aforementioned don Abbondio, who has a hard time going against the whims of rich and the powerful, were made priests not because of genuine vocation but because of convenience and their desire for a comfortable life," wrote Murzaku. "The Capuchin friars, serious in their religious vocation, are on the battlefront, helping the people of Milan who are suffering pestilence. Friars like Fr. Felice Casati, who were in charge of the people in the lazzaretto, are Pope Francis' heroes."
In addition. Murzaku submitted the blog post "Coronavirus: How Lenten Kenosis Prepares Us for Easter" for the National Catholic Register, in which she wrote:
The all-surrounding Lenten emptiness and nakedness, busy cities reduced to ghost cities, are acts of kenosis. It is through emptiness that humankind comes to know God and the existence of God. Ascetical theology, which focuses on how one comes to know God, might be helpful as we seek to unpack the emptiness related to COVID-19.
Ines Angeli Murzaku, Ph.D. is a professor of Ecclesiastical History and founding chair of the Department of Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University. A specialist in Byzantine and Catholic Church History, Murzaku teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Church History and Theology focusing on Mediterranean Christianity, Monasticism, Eastern Christianity and Ecumenism.
Murzaku has won several prestigious grants, including an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Grant. She has won three Fulbright Senior Research Scholar Awards for research in Italy and Slovenia.
Currently, Murzaku is co-authoring a translation and critical edition of the Life of St. Neilos of Rossano for Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University, and is also working on a book project entitled Greek Monasticism in Southern Italy, 1000-1500 for Ashgate Publishing.