On Saturday March 27 the 31st annual Diaconal Conference was held online for the first time. The theme chosen for this year, “Dia-logo e cura” aimed at exploring the dynamic between words and care, and the importance of the careful use of words when offering care to the suffering and marginalised in Italy.

Dr. Adriano Peris, Director of Intensive Care at a large hospital in Florence began by noting that the pandemic has limited the access to the right to dialogue among patients in intensive care because of the necessity to concentrate on the rapid supply of medical treatment.  Despite all the technological instruments available today, the doctor emphasised the importance of dialogue between doctor and patient as contributing to healing.

The second part of the morning was devoted to a Round Table discussion chaired by Professor Fulvio Ferrario, Dean of the Waldensian Theological Faculty in Rome. Ferrario posed a number of questions to the three participants at the Round Table aimed at exploring the interconnections between the technical dimensions of care and the dimension of dialogue.

Anna Ponente, Director of the Diaconal Centre La Noce in Palermo spoke about how the pandemic has severely impacted the work her team does among the poorest and most marginalised in the city. Her team, despite the frustration and exhaustion they feel, try to offer words of hope to the people they serve.

Monica Fabbri, President of the concistoro of the Waldensian Church in Milan and a researcher in one of the city’s large hospitals noted the heavy limitations placed on health care workers who could no longer rely on non-verbal communication with patients they could not touch and patients who could see little of them behind their masks, visors and protective clothing.

Andrea Gentile, employee of the Diaconia Valdese charged with coordinating the housing and integration of migrants and refugees arriving in Sicily, expressed frustration at the new limitations to effective communication with those Italian is poor but who are urgently in need of some kind of dialogue to reassure them that the operators care about them.

A total of 180 people took part in the Conference which served the important purpose of bringing important aspects of Waldensian Diaconal work during this pandemic to the attention of church members.