Conversation: Digitalization of Religion in Times of COVID-19

Marco Ventura
is a professor with tenure in law and religion at the University of Siena and the Director of the Center for Religious Studies at Fondazione Bruno Kessler of Trento

Causing many religious activities to go online and resort to new information and communication technologies, the covid-19 related lockdown and social distancing is transforming digital religion, a growing reality and research area for the last twenty years, into a mass experience. Quickly, the pre-pandemic niche experience and study is being replaced by a new reality and knowledge of digital religion, associated with controversies over conflicting interpretations of the process. Reacting to the transition into our pandemic-driven new age of digital religion the four blogs gathered here contribute valuable information and present the many faces of the debate on how good, or bad, digitalisation of religion is, as well as on how actors should handle such momentous transformation. Continue reading “Conversation: Digitalization of Religion in Times of COVID-19”

Prisoners of an Image Secularization as an Epidemic

Paolo Costa  is a researcher at the Center for Religious Sciences of Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Trento, Italy.


Photographing the Void

What will stay with us after the COViD-19 pandemic is over is not only the bewilderment at a life change that no sane person could have foreseen only a few months ago or the collective anxiety for an indeterminate and insidious threat impending over mankind. Besides this, there are some images that have disturbed the consciences of those who, to evoke Max Weber, are still religiously musical despite the apparently inexorable process of the disenchantment of the world.

Some of these images have already gone down in history.

Some of the most evocative ones are the photographs of Pope Francis shot during the extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” blessing of March 27.

Overlooking a deserted and rain-lashed Saint Peter’s square, he gave voice to the feeling of disorientation afflicting Christians and non- Christians alike since the beginning of the pandemic with these powerful words: Continue reading “Prisoners of an Image Secularization as an Epidemic”

Digitalizing the Church? Different Contexts, Similar Theological Challenges in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches

© Annette Riedl

Regina Elsner
is a Researcher at the Centre for East European and International Studies ZOiS

Digitalization of the Christian faith triggered by restrictions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic—despite all insights into its necessity—is theologically controversial. Indeed, most Christian churches stand on two pillars: the community and the Eucharist. Both lose substance in the process of going virtual—is it then still possible to speak of the Church? What remains of the Christian faith when these two pillars shake?

These questions have led to intensive theological debates about the “right” and “possible” forms of church fellowship when there are restrictions on gatherings. In contrast to other theological discussions of recent years­, such as the discussion on power structures in light of the Catholic Church abuse scandal or the conflict over Ukrainian autocephaly in the Orthodox Church, the challenge of digitalization and the essence of ecclesial identity has been imposed on churches by external circumstances and is global like the pandemic itself. The ways in which Christian churches are responding to this challenge of forced digitalization are diverse, yet they show some interesting similarities. I would like to outline these reactions by looking at the Catholic Church in Germany and Orthodox churches in Ukraine and Russia. Continue reading “Digitalizing the Church? Different Contexts, Similar Theological Challenges in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches”