Many of us at the International Association of Religion Journalists are directly affected by the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic. We are publishing this sample of spiritual wisdom we have collected from around the world as a way to encourage all journalists to report on this vital theme in the crisis. Because the virus is spreading so rapidly, most messages issued by governments—and by faith leaders—focus on practical matters, such as temporary closings and other restrictions.
However, at their best, religious leaders around the world also inspire billions of families to cope with the anxiety and to remain compassionate toward their neighbors.
If you are reading this article as a religious leader or teacher, consider these examples as an inspiration to communicate with your followers.
If you are reading this article as a journalist, you can see the value of reporting further in your region or community.
If you are reading this as someone seeking inspiration, then we hope these words may be helpful.
Pope Francis, Vatican
Pope Francis has spoken many times about Coronavirus. He used the Sunday Angelus on March 8 to offer prayers and to call for a compassionate global response. Over the past week, he has modeled a wide range of prayers that the faithful can use in this time of crisis, including Catholic prayers for the intercession of Mary. On March 12, the pope also prayed for government officials who have to make very difficult decisions.
“Let us keep praying together for the ill, their relatives, for parents with children at home, but most of all I would ask that you pray for authorities,” the pope said at the beginning of a Mass on March 12. Government authorities, he said, “must make decisions and many times they have to decide on measures that the people do not like. But it is for our own good.” From an America magazine story.
Pope Francis’ intention for Mass on Friday March 13 was for pastors:
“I would also like to pray today for pastors who need to accompany the people of God during this crisis. May the Lord grant them the strength and the ability to choose the best ways to help. Drastic measures are not always good. Therefore, we pray that the Holy Spirit might grant pastoral discernment to pastors so that they might perceive measures that might not leave the holy, faithful people of God alone, and so that people of God might feel accompanied by their pastors”.
Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, The Holy See
A continual theme in prayers and meditations offered by religious leaders is a warning against turning panic over the virus into a fear of “the other,” especially of “foreigners.” The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is Pope Francis’s council that oversees the needs of vulnerable minorities, including migrants, refugees and other at-risk groups.
From the Dicastery: For every person, believer or non-believer, this is a good time to understand the value of brotherhood, of being inseparably linked to each other; a time in which, from the perspective of faith, the value of solidarity, which springs from the love that is sacrificed for others, “helps us to see the ‘other’—whether a person, people, or nation—not just as some kind of instrument […], but as our ‘neighbour’, a ‘helper’ (cf. Gen 2: 18, 20), to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God” (SRS 39.5). The value of solidarity also needs to be incarnated. Let us think of our neighbour, the office colleague, the school friend, but above all of the doctors and nurses who risk contamination and infection to save those who are infected. These workers live and show us the meaning of the Paschal mystery: donation and service.
[…] Let us pray then that God the Father will increase our faith, help the sick in healing and support health care workers in their mission. Let us strive to avoid the stigmatisation of those who are affected: the disease knows no boundaries or skin colour; instead, it speaks one language. Let us cultivate the “Wisdom of the Heart”, an “attitude infused with the Holy Spirit” in those who know how to open themselves to the suffering of their brothers and sisters and recognize in them the image of God.
SOURCE: His Eminence Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Message in the time of Coronavirus (COVID-19), 11.03.2020: Re-discover the power of prayer so that God the Father may increase our faith, help the sick in healing and support health care workers in their mission. A different version from the Dicastery on the Holy See website.
IRISH CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
As people of faith we are called to face the fears of this moment with a courage not our own and with a generous heart. God is with his people in good times and bad. Like believers in every age we say: “If I should walk in The Valley of Darkness no evil would I fear for You are there.” In our hour of trial Jesus calls on us, his followers, to serve the common good by taking responsibility for each other and to prioritise the most vulnerable in our community ahead of our own individual wants and aspirations. At this time our first concern has to be for the elderly, the ill and those with underlying medical conditions.”
SOURCE: Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference statement on liturgical considerations in the context of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC)
These are also moments of acknowledging in humility human fragility and our mortal nature. Atheistic assertions, displaced arrogance in invincibility of arms and technological superiority have put many leaders in delusion of unbridled power. The only super power over our lives is God. Natural disasters, pandemics are grim reminder of our restricted existence. We are powerless in the face of an invisible microbe attack despite stockpiling lethal arsenal of arms. Weapons of death are available but no antidote so far this virus! Life becomes a commodity. Sacredness of human life is superseded by economic interests. Pope Francis has been waging a war against economic injustice and environmental injustice.
SOURCE: Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB – Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC). Statement
We have no precepts to observe and every evangelical person knows that he or she can read the Bible and pray at home with those who wish to be associated in a small group of relatives and neighbors following the words of Jesus: “For Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them”. But our calling goes beyond the individual: God has called us to be a body, gathering our individualities because our faith, its questions and hopes need the comfort of others and others in listening together to the Word. As Protestants the church is not a secondary event for us.
SOURCE: Board of the Waldensian Table: Faith beyond Fear, Letter to the members of the Waldensian and Methodist Churches
CHURCH OF ENGLAND
A Letter to All Clergy—We are all in this together and we all must be alert to the challenges and the demands that we might face. We are seeking national advice regularly and are very grateful to all those who are working with us. Clearly, none of us knows precisely how the current situation will develop so we need to pray and work to be prepared for all reasonable eventualities. As we journey through this season of Lent we are all aware of the challenges that face us day by day. Now we need to continue to work together and to pray for each other, showing compassion and resilience and above all, caring especially for those who are marginalised in our societies.
SOURCE: The Most Rev. & Rt. Hon. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and The Most Rev. & Rt. Hon. John Sentam, Archbishop of York . Church of England. Letter to all clergy The official website of the Church of England includes relevant prayers and short passages of scriptures for reading and contemplation.
Episcopal Church in the U.S.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in a Pastoral Column—We are part of the human family of God. Jesus came to show us that his way of love is the way of life. It’s God’s human family. We are in a time when remembering that may be important for all of us.
We are in this together. What affects some directly affects all indirectly. We are part of a family. The human family of God.
Just over the weekend the head of the World Health Organization, said this, and I quote, “We have seen this coming for years. Now is the time to act. This is not a drill. This epidemic can be pushed back, but only with collective, coordinated, and comprehensive approach by us all.”
It takes us all. We are family. … So look out for your neighbors, look out for each other. Look out for yourselves. Listen to those who have knowledge that can help to guide us medically and help to guide us socially. Do everything that we can to do this together, to respond to each other’s needs and to respond to our own needs.
Rabbi Angela W. Buchdahl
Rabbi Buchdahl is Senior Rabbi of the historic Central Synagogue in New York City.
Pikuach Nefesh, the principle of “saving a life,” is paramount in our tradition. It overrides all other laws including the observance of Shabbat. With the explosion of COVID-19 cases in New York, it is no exaggeration to say that our response may be a matter of life or death. We have been consulting with some of the leading health institutions in our city, and they have been clear that one of the most important goals is to help “flatten the curve,” to slow down the spread of the virus through social distancing and lessen the potential for overburdening our city and nation’s healthcare system. Given our tradition’s mandate to put saving lives above all other mitzvot, the leadership team made the very difficult decision that, at the start of Shabbat this Friday, Central will become a completely “virtual” congregation. This is one of those moments when a community is tested but can also provide sanctuary — even when we cannot physically be in our spiritual home.
SOURCE: The rabbi’s March 12 statement.
BUDDHIST COMMUNITY AT PLUM VILLAGE
From Thich Nhat Hanh’s community in France—As a community we are taking this opportunity to pause and reflect on the state of our planet and the reality of our interbeing. Over the next two months, our sangha of 210 monastics and over 50 lay residents will be continuing to live simply, reducing unnecessary travel, and continuing our studies, training, and practice, as well as our mindful work to prepare Plum Village for re-opening in the summer months. Although presently conditions are not sufficient for us to welcome you here to practice with us this spring, we hope that you will have a chance to make the most of the situation to take time to pause, slow down, and simplify your lives, taking opportunities to rest, spend time in nature, and take care of yourselves and your loved ones.
SOURCE: Plum Village update on March 2.
Imam Sheikh Abdul Rahman Sudais
Imam Sheikh Abdul Rahman Sudais is the chief Imam of al-Masjid al-Ḥarām, the Great Mosque of Mecca .
The Government has given up some of its interests for the safety of people, following its religious and humanitarian obligations, and mobilizing all capabilities to limit the spread of this epidemic and preserving the safety of the citizen and the resident. The religious, moral, and humanitarian duty is that everyone respects these decisions and follows all procedures for his safety and the safety of all people”.
[…] Any violation of the regulations, instructions and necessary precautionary measures taken by the Kingdom’s government in the fight against the emerging Coronavirus (Covid 19) is an illegal violation forbidden by religion. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), in a number of hadiths, mentioned the principles of quarantine, with the clearest statement, and prevented people from it from entering or
leaving plague-affected towns.
SOURCE: Dora Electronic Website (in Arabic)
ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA
On Behalf of Several Islamic Groups—Protecting human life is one of the fundamental objectives of Islamic Shari’ah. This concept takes precedence over all other objectives of Islamic faith as life represents the foundation of our existence. Therefore, at times, preservation of human life and human rights is far more significant than continuity of even essential practices of devotion.
The Prophet (SAW) gave us specific guidelines to navigate threats to the community such as epidemics. Quarantine, social isolation, travel bans and restriction of select movement, visitations, congregation and socialization are among the precautionary and preventive measures specified in authentic hadith. Fear for one’s safety is a genuine Islamic reason to forgo some of the fundamental Islamic actions and rituals. The Prophet (SAW) relinquished the oath of Islam from a member of Banu Thaqi’f tribe who suffered from Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Therefore, devotional acts such as daily and weekly congregational prayers, including those for funerals, Taraweeh and Eid can be temporarily halted to avoid life-threatening, widespread dangers such as pandemics.
SOURCE: Joint Statement by The Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA)
ISLAMIC COMMUNITY OF SICILY, ITALY
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. As a believer I start from the sacred text where Allah the Most High said: “Nothing can affect us but what Allah has written for us. He is our patron. Have trust in Allah those who believe”. Quran chapter Al Tauba (Repentance 51). I remember that in difficult times prayers, invocations, requests for forgiveness for sins, donations and fasting are recommended. In this regard, Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said: “Call upon Allah, praise him, make prayers and give donations”. We need a sincere return to Allah and remember his words: Say, “Who would save you from the darkness of the earth and the sea?” Invoke him humbly and in secret: “If you lift us from this, we will certainly be grateful.” …
Islam takes into account the needs of the believer, and does so also in the context of prayer; this is because Islam assigns to the sacredness of life and of the human person (and to the preservation thereof) a greater value than that of respect for the precepts. We ask Allah the Most High to alleviate this suffering for all and to heal the sick and take care of them.
SOURCE: Kheit Abdelhafid, Imam of the Mercy Mosque of Catania (Italy); President of the Islamic Community of Sicily (Italy).
AHMADIYYA MUSLIM COMMUNITY
Every Ahmadi ought to pay particular attention towards prayers and also to improve their spiritual condition. One also ought to pray for the world in general that may Allah the Almighty grant them guidance. Instead of immersing themselves in worldly endeavors and being neglectful of God, may Allah enable them to recognize their True Creator.”
SOURCE: His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, fifth Khalifa (Caliph) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Video: Friday Sermon, March 6th, 2020: Men od Excellence. The Head of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Calls on Muslims to Adopt Precautionary Measures to Curb the Spread of Coronavirus Video: Friday Sermon, March 6th, 2020: Men od Excellence.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
President Russell M. Nelson—Brothers and sisters, please take good care of yourselves and your loved ones. And look for opportunities to help t hose around you near and far. We have the great privilege of ministering to our neighbors wherever they live. Temporary changes in our normal routine may allow additional time to experience how precious home-centered gospel study can be.
SOURCE: An internationally shared video of Nelson’s pastoral advice to LDS members around the world.
Thank You for Sharing News
We want to thank our colleagues around the world for sharing news items from religious leaders and groups in their regions. Among them:
- KENYA: KCCB-Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops invited Christians to pray for the end of the pandemic and to follow the guidelines to avoid that liturgical celebrations and other related gatherings facilitate any incidental spread of the Coronavirus: KCCB Guidelines on COVID19
- GREECE: The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople issued a statement announcing the Church’s new decision in regard to the COVID-19. Patriarch Bartholomew expresses said: “We will pass through this period like a journey through the desert to reach the Promised Land, where science, by the grace of God, will overcome this virus. We are certain that, through our prayers as well, science will indeed prevail. So it is good for us to remain united in spirit, as we continue the struggle of repentance and holiness.” Full text of the Patriarch’s speech.
- EGYPT: Theorodos II, orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and of all Africa, quotes the Gospel of Luke, in his Encyclical on the COVID-19: “It is now a fact that the world is entering an Apocalyptic era, where no one feels safe and where the drums of war co-ordinate with cries of “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26).
- In a historic joint pastoral statement, the World Council of Churches and Regional Ecumenical Organizations affirmed the urgency of standing together to protect life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: A Time for Pastoral, Prophetic and Practical Christianity.