Card Gracias: a day of prayer against the pandemic to promote fraternity
The cardinal wrote to the representatives of other religions in the country, as well as to his fellow bishops, inviting them to take part in a Day of prayer, fasting and works of charity. For Ram Puniyani, a well-known activist and president of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, the “call for a World Day of Prayer can be an occasion to commit ourselves to rational thinking in eradicating the pandemic.”
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), spoke to AsiaNews about the letter he wrote to representatives of the other religions of India, as well as to his fellow bishops, inviting them to take part tomorrow in a Day of Prayer, fasting and works of charity promoted by the High Committee for Human Fraternity.
In his letter, the prelate writes that “all of us are children of God, brothers and sisters of one big family” are called to “come together and pray for God to spare us from the pandemic as our only hope is that God Almighty will save us, and help scientists and researchers find the eagerly-awaited cure.”
"I also wrote a personal letter to my brother Maulana Mamood Madani, general secretary of Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind,” the cardinal told AsiaNews. In it, he writes that “Ramadan fasting helps everyone spend time reconnecting with God in prayer, strengthening feelings of love for the needy through the practice of Zakat, and increases solidarity with the suffering and marginalised.”
Mentioning Pope Francis' visit to Abu Dhabi, Card Gracias goes on to say that “when the Pope signed the historic document On Human Fraternity together with the Great Imam of Al Azhar” Ahmad al-Tayyeb,” it “gave us much to ponder” for it “publicly committed all Muslims and all Christians to adopt a culture of dialogue as a path, mutual co-operation as a code of conduct and reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.”
Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai, who is also CBCI secretary general, also spoke to AsiaNews, noting that the Catholic Church organises a day of prayer and fasting on very important occasions. This was the case, for example, after the Twin Towers attack in 2001, when John Paul II convened a day of prayer in Assisi, which took place in January 2002.
“I travelled with Cardinal Ratzinger by train to Assisi for the 2002 event,” said Bishop Machado, former undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue between 1999 and 2008. The meeting “featured rabbis, muftis, shamans and sages” [. . .] to talk, reflect and pray in the same space, if not quite together."
Even during the current “global pandemic, we must come together. . . and pray. I'm almost certain, if there were no lockdowns, Pope Francis would have convened a meeting in Assisi. This is a very important and significant moment for the world.”
“I believe in the power of prayer,” added the Archbishop of Vasai. “Pray, pray, pray during the current emergency; each one of us must pray. I would even call on non-believers to pray in his/her own way. The 14 May initiative confirms the Church's irrevocable commitment to interfaith dialogue, harmony, solidarity and peace in the world.”
Of particular significance is a statement by Dr Ram Puniyani, a well-known activist and president of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism.
“The call for a World Day of Prayer can be an occasion to commit ourselves to rational thinking in eradicating the pandemic,” he told AsiaNews. For him, such an event can teach us “that we are one as humanity and need to act in unison and in a rational, scientific spirit to protect our society from this dangerous pandemic.
The pandemic provides “an opportunity to come together as a single humanity, holding hands, [standing] shoulder to shoulder to commit ourselves to the welfare of each other. This can be the occasion to remind ourselves the we as the human race survive only by being part of a global community, cutting across the boundaries of nations, races and religions."
Dr AK Merchant, general secretary of the Temple of Understanding India Foundation, Lotus Temple and Baha'i Community of India also spoke to AsiaNews.
“We join our Christian brothers and sisters in prayer, led by His Holiness Pope Francis on World Prayer Day,” he said.
“Whatever the tribulations that a conflicted world must confront in the weeks and months ahead, as a believer, I wish to join others like me, in offering prayers to the Almighty for the safety and good health of all who are battling the global pandemic.
“May the promise of reunion in the eternal realms offer solace to those who have lost their loved ones." Meanwhile, “The most important thing is, of course, to have recourse to the power of prayer and meditation, which must go hand in hand with the best of what medical sciences may offer in tandem with the selfless services of trained doctors and health workers.”