Pope Francis led the global observance of the Day of Prayer Against the Pandemic on May 14, by reminding everyone that “we are all brothers and sisters,” no matter the religious affiliation.
In his message, the pontiff called on people of all faiths to pray, fast, and perform works of charity for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.
He noted that “men and women of every religious confession are uniting themselves today in prayer and penance to ask for the grace of healing from this pandemic.”
The worldwide day of prayer was the initiative of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, which was formed by the United Arab Emirates in 2019 to work toward the goals laid out in the Document on Human Fraternity released in February 2019 during Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Abu Dhabi.
In his homily, the pope reminded that the interfaith day of prayer, fasting, and charity is not an expression of “religious relativism,” but “a day of fraternity” and prayer.
“Perhaps there will be someone who will say: ‘This is religious relativism and it cannot be done.’ But how can we not pray to the Father of all?” Pope Francis said.
“Everyone prays as he knows, how he can, as he has received from his own culture. We are not praying against each other, this religious tradition against this, no. We are all united as human beings, as brothers, praying to God, according to our culture, according to our own tradition, according to our beliefs, but brothers and praying to God. This is the important thing,” he said.
In his homily, the pontiff reflected on the example of the prophet Jonah.
“The city of Nineveh was afflicted by some sort of pandemic — perhaps by a moral pandemic — and was about to be destroyed. God called Jonah to preach a message of prayer, penance, and fasting,” said Pope Francis.
He said Jonah was initially overcome by fear, so ran away from his mission. God called him again, and the prophet went to Nineveh to preach.
Pope Francis said people of all faiths and traditions are called to pray and fast together for delivery from the pandemic, as the people of Nineveh did in response to Jonah’s preaching.
The pontiff said nobody expected the coronavirus pandemic until it infected thousands and killed many.
He warned those who have not been affected by the pandemic not to rejoice and to think about others.
“Think about the tragedy and its consequences on the economy and education. Think about what will come afterwards,” he said.
He called on everyone to ask God for forgiveness so that “God might put an end to this pandemic.”
“This day of prayer against the pandemic must make us think also of many other pandemics. The pandemics of war, of hunger,” added the pontiff.
Aside from Pope Francis, religious leaders around the world, including Ahmad El Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, joined the global initiative.