On December 15, 2021, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Service, Bishop Panteleimon of Verey, met with the Director of the Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organization (WHO) Hans Kluge and the WHO Representative in the Russian Federation Melita Vuinovich. The Director of the WHO European Office thanked the Russian Orthodox Church for helping people in the pandemic, according to Patriarchia.ru.
The event was also attended by the director and chief physician of the Moscow Hospital of St. Alexis Aleksey Zarov, the head of the hospital ministry of the Synodal Charity Department Natalya Shakuro. The meeting participants discussed the ministry of priests and volunteers in the “red zones” of hospitals, issues of spiritual and psychological support for patients with COVID-19.
“I would like to thank you for your visit, for your participation in our conference on the ministry of hospital chaplains and convey from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill his words of gratitude, as well as a wish for health and God’s help in your labors,” said Bishop Panteleimon, addressing the WHO representatives. – I listened with pleasure to your speeches at the last conference. I am very grateful to you for your help and understanding of the need for not only doctors, but also volunteers and clergymen to participate in the hospital ministry. Unfortunately, not all doctors in Russia are aware of this yet, but during the pandemic, medical workers began to better understand that a patient needs to be helped not only with medicines, but also with care, care, and think about his soul. “
In turn, Hans Kluge thanked the Russian Orthodox Church for helping people in the pandemic. “First of all, let me express my deep gratitude to you and thank His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and you personally for the role that the Russian Orthodox Church plays during the pandemic, providing spiritual support and alleviating the suffering of people in this very difficult time. Let me thank you personally for your efforts to create special groups of clerics who provide spiritual support and guidance to patients with COVID-19 during this illness, thereby protecting people from the loneliness that is caused by the lack of contact with family and their loved ones. I am very grateful for the pastoral assistance that you and the Russian Orthodox Church provide, helping to find comfort not only for patients, but also for medical personnel, ”said the WHO Regional Director for Europe.
The importance of spiritual support was also noted by the WHO representative in the Russian Federation, Melita Vujnovich. “The World Health Organization has long been concerned with the spiritual health of people. But it seems to me that now, during a pandemic, this has become the main point, because human health is a combination of physical, mental and spiritual health. Therefore, your support during this period is very important, ”said Melita Vujnovic.
Bishop Panteleimon also stressed that the pandemic threatens not only the physical health of a person, but also destroys his mental health. “We are grateful to you for understanding the importance of the role of the Church and priests in this difficult time,” said the chairman of the Synodal Charity Department.
During the meeting, Natalya Shakuro, head of the hospital ministry department of the Synodal Charity Department, spoke about the help of volunteers in the “red zones” of hospitals. “We very often hear gratitude from the personnel of the“ red zones ”, since for them the appearance of volunteers in the hospital is a very great psychological support. Volunteers help to defuse the situation and add joy, they bring life energy with them, the desire to help and comfort, ”said Natalya Shakuro.
On October 6, the Synodal Department for Charity, the Ministry of Health of Russia and the Council under the Government of the Russian Federation for Guardianship in the Social Sphere held an international online conference “Spiritual Assistance of Hospital Priests (Chaplains) in Medical Institutions: Law, Psychology, Organization”. It was attended by the Director of the WHO Regional Office for Europe Hans Kluge, WHO Representative in Russia Melita Vujnovich, hospital chaplains, scientists, doctors, clergymen, government officials from Russia, the USA, Germany, Italy, France, Great Britain, the Vatican. The conference participants paid special attention to the spiritual and psychological support of patients with COVID-19.
Spiritual assistance to patients in medical institutions is one of the leading areas of social service of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Church publishes manuals, conducts training seminars for priests, and organizes pastoral assistance during the coronavirus period. On the basis of foreign research, the Synodal Department of Charity has published a textbook “Why does a hospital need a priest?” It tells about the positive impact of the activities of clergy (chaplains) in medical institutions, presents data on the ministry of hospital chaplains in Western countries.
At the end of March 2020, a special group of priests and their assistants was created at the Synodal Department for Charity and the Commission for Hospital Ministry of the Moscow Diocese to visit patients with coronavirus, special suits and protective equipment were purchased for them. The priests received safety instructions. To call the priest in Moscow, a round-the-clock telephone was organized: +7 903 660-30-40.
Following the example of the capital, such groups of priests appeared in other dioceses. A series of face-to-face training sessions and webinars was organized for priests on how to perform the Sacraments in the “red zone”, how to use protective equipment. A typical required kit and a set of personal protective equipment (PPE) were compiled for each priest. To date, the Synodal Charity Department has sent 5,634 sets of such PPE to 127 dioceses.
In the Moscow region alone, a special group of trained priests of the Hospital Commission of the Moscow Diocese from April 2, 2020 to December 17, 2021 made 4,639 visits to people with coronavirus, suspected coronavirus and dying without symptoms of coronavirus. Priests always visit patients with coronavirus in special suits and protective equipment. Since April 2020, the priests of the special group have visited 57 medical institutions in the Moscow region.
In Yekaterinburg, in Rostov-on-Don, in Moscow, admission to courses of Orthodox volunteers of the “red zone” continues. In Moscow, courses are organized on the basis of the Training Center of the St. Alexis Hospital by the Synodal Charity Department with the support of the Department of Healthcare and the Department of Labor and Social Protection of Moscow. After completing courses, hundreds of Orthodox volunteers are participating in the care of patients in COVID hospitals.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the St. Alexis Hospital has been actively engaged in the diagnosis of coronavirus infection and counseling: the hospital has organized a CT outpatient center, a diagnostic room, and a PCR laboratory. The hospital also conducts field testing of priests, monasteries, and seminary students.
The Central Clinical Hospital of St. Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow, is a multidisciplinary medical institution with 280 beds. This is the largest medical institution of the Russian Orthodox Church. The hospital treats people from all regions of Russia, regardless of their confessional affiliation. For all patients, examination and treatment are free of charge.