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Gerard O’ConnellMay 02, 2020
Muslim men wearing masks offer prayers at a mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan, May 1, during the coronavirus pandemic in New Delhi. (CNS photo/Anushree Fadnavis, Reuters) 

Pope Francis calls on believers of all religions to pray together on May 14 to ask God to rid the world of the pandemic and asks that the vaccines to be made available to all persons threatened with infection.

Pope Francis has endorsed the call to “the believers of all the religions to unite together spiritually on May 14 in a day of prayer and fasting, to implore God to help humanity overcome the coronavirus pandemic.” 

He also encouraged international cooperation to respond to the crisis, and emphasized the importance that scientific efforts to find a vaccine be put together in “a transparent and disinterested way” and that “the essential technologies be made universally available” so that every infected person may be able to receive the medical care needed.

The appeal calls on believers in God worldwide to hold “a day for fasting, prayers, and supplications” on May 14.

He focused on these two issues when he addressed a virtual global audience by Vatican Media from the library of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace at midday on Sunday, May 3.

In his address, he repeated the call for an interreligious day of prayer saying, “Remember, May 14, all believers together, believers of the different [religious] traditions, to pray, to fast, and to do works of charity.”

The proposal for this worldwide day of prayer came originally from the High Committee for Human Fraternity, which was established in September 2019 as a concrete response to the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, during the pope’s visit to the United Arab Emirates in February 2019

As the pope endorsed that call today he explained that “since prayer is a universal value, I accepted its proposal [for this day of prayer].” 

“Remember, May 14, all believers together, believers of the different traditions, to pray, to fast, and to do works of charity.”

Pope Francis is ever attentive to the spread of the pandemic across the world that has led to the death of over 240,000 people, the infection of 3.3 million, and the confinement to their homes and lockdown of two thirds of humanity, and today said, “I again express my closeness to all those who are ill from Covid-19, and to those who care for all those who, in any way, are suffering from the pandemic.”

He encouraged the global efforts to combat the virus, and said, “I wish to support and encourage the international collaboration that is being activated through various initiatives to respond in an adequate and effective way to the grave crisis that we are living through.”

Referring specifically to the global efforts to find a vaccine, Francis emphasized that “it is important to put together the scientific capacities in a transparent and disinterested way to find the vaccines and treatments, and to guarantee the universal access to the essential technologies that permit every infected person, in every part of the world, to receive the necessary health cures.”

Francis emphasized that “it is important to put together the scientific capacities in a transparent and disinterested way to find the vaccines and treatments.”

In his midday address, he also recalled that today is the world day of prayer for vocations and said, “the Christian life is ever and always a response to the call of God, in whatever state of life.” He recalled how Jesus told his disciples to pray to the Father to send laborers into the field, and said, “the priesthood and the consecrated life demand courage and perseverance, and without prayer one cannot go forward on this path.” He invited all believers to pray to the Lord that he “send good workers for his Kingdom.” 

Earlier, he spoke about priests and doctors worldwide “who give their lives for the people” when he celebrated his 50th Mass since the lockdown in the Vatican and Italy due to the Covid-19 pandemic in the chapel of Santa Martha (the Vatican guesthouse where he lives).

Addressing a virtual audience that now exceeds one million people, who follow it on the Italian TV Channel 1, the Catholic TV 2000, thanks to Vatican Media, Francis recalled that today is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” in the Catholic world because the Gospel of the day recalls Jesus words about the good shepherd. 

“This makes me think of the many pastors throughout the world who give their lives for the faithful, also in this pandemic, and many have died,” he said. He recalled that in Italy alone “more than 100 priests have died” in this ministry.

“I also think of other pastors who care for the good of people: the doctors”, he said. He recalled that many of them too “have died in their service [to the people],” and mentioned that in Italy no less than 154 have died.

He hailed these “pastor priests” and “pastor doctors” who are “good shepherds” to their people, and said they offer us “an example” of “how to care for the holy people of God.”

The Vatican published the appeal from the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity on Saturday May 2. The document draws attention to the “great danger” from Covid-19 “that threatens the lives of millions of people around the world” and says, “while we reaffirm the role of medicine and scientific research in fighting this pandemic, we should not forget to seek refuge in God, the All-Creator, as we face such severe crisis.”

The appeal calls on believers in God worldwide to hold “a day for fasting, prayers, and supplications” on May 14.

It calls on “all peoples around the world to do good deeds, observe fast, pray, and make devout supplications to God Almighty to end this pandemic.” It continues that “each one from wherever they are and according to the teachings of their religion, faith, or sect, should implore God to lift this pandemic off us and the entire world, to rescue us all from this adversity, to inspire scientists to find a cure that can turn back this disease, and to save the whole world from the health, economic, and human repercussions of this serious pandemic.”

The committee “invites all religious leaders and peoples around the world to respond to this call for humanity and together beseech God Almighty to safeguard the entire world, to help us overcome this pandemic, to restore security, stability, healthiness, and prosperity, so that, after this pandemic is over, our world will become a better place for humanity and fraternity than ever before.”

The committee is composed of nine members, including Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Mohamed Hussein Mahrasawi, president of Al-Azhar University, Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, personal secretary of Pope Francis, and Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, advisor to the Grand Imam. It seeks to promote that Document on Human Fraternity, which reminds people everywhere that we are all brothers and sisters and members of the one human family, a point that is reinforced by today’s call to prayer and fasting.

The appeal was published in English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Afghan, Malaysian, Persian, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, Chinese and Hebrew.

This article has been updated.

Corrections (May 5, 2020): One of the languages noted for the appeal's publication was listed as "Jewish" instead of Hebrew, and a sentence suggesting that a vaccine would be offered to "infected persons" was changed to "offered to all persons threatened with infection."

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