World Day of Prayer, Fasting, and Mercy

Concluding the prayer of the Regina Coeli on Sunday 3rd May, Pope Francis said: “I have accepted the proposal of the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity for believers of all religions to unite spiritually this 14 May for a day of prayer, fasting, and works of charity, to implore God to help humanity overcome the coronavirus pandemic”.

 

This initiative is promoted by religious leaders who refer to the historic document signed by the Pope and the great imam of al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyeb, in February 2019. In calling for worldwide prayer, the Committee says, “we should not forget to seek refuge in God, the All-Creator, as we face such a severe crisis. 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”.

The Prayer of Thursday 14th May, emerges as a sharing of the suffering and anguish caused by the storm that has fallen in recent months on the entire planet, and as an ideal continuation of the inter-religious dialogue initiated by John Paul II on the Day of Assisi, which strengthened gradually over the years, until the acceleration impressed by Francis and the signing of Abu Dhabi. The spirit of Assisi is still blowing, now with even more strength.

Pope Francis, who has been praying for the end of the epidemic since it was still confined to seemingly distant China, wants to respond to the disease imposing social distancing with a new bond between persons, between peoples and their Creator. To the invisible microorganism confining everyone in a closed space and suspended time, the Pope intends to oppose a unitive movement between cultures and religions, made not only of meditation, but also of charity. He wants to open new spaces, to draw an idea of the future. The world of globalization, which seemed vast to us, has become small. Evil goes through it with great strides, unaware of the frontiers, reaping victims without making distinctions of faith. For this reason we need closeness and encounter.

Already on March 27th, in St Peter’s Square, Francis had been able to indicate a perspective: “You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not”. It is time to overcome watertight compartments,  walls, and clashes of civilizations. Francis is a herald of the unity of mankind. Hence the concern for scientific research to always  move bearing in mind the fact that we are all «in the same boat, all fragile and disoriented». Indeed, the boat is one: ‘It is important to bring together scientific capacities, in a transparent and disinterested way, to find vaccines and treatments and ensure universal access to essential technologies allowing every infected person, in every part of the world, to receive necessary health care». To consider ourselves all members of a single human family, to learn to care for creation, is not something more, which you can give up if the context is difficult It is increasingly becoming a necessity in this time of globalization and broadening horizons.

History – which we had set aside to make our little stories triumph – calls to a unit that hinges on what unites us and leaves aside what divides us. The common prayer of Thursday 14th May becomes for all a spiritual and universal sign: despite the differences, we cannot be saved by ourself, rather by recognizing ourselves close in a common humanity, facing together the struggle for the life of all. With the hope that, for the end of the pandemic, all civil authorities of the world could really adopt the «common collaboration as conduct» to which Pope Francis invites.