Iraqi Christians urged to undertake ‘Jonah’s fast’ against the pandemic
Starting on 25 January, the Chaldean Church will hold three days of fasting and prayer. From Card Sako comes an invitation to transform the “painful experience” of the coronavirus, like the plague of the past, into “opportunities for grace and good”. A prayer should also be dedicated to “the success of Pope Francis' visit”.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Like the people who prayed and fasted “at the time of Ezekiel” for the end of the epidemic of plague, so “we too are transforming this painful experience” of the COVID-19 pandemic into “opportunities for grace and good “through” spiritual and social solidarity,” writes Chaldean primate Card Louis Raphael Sako in a statement released today, presenting three days of fasting and prayer for “The revival of Nineveh”, beginning next Monday.
“Come, let us repent our sins, let us pray for salvation from the corona pandemic,” writes the cardinal, “let us contemplate the meaning of our existence and assume our responsibilities” by going to the aid of the sick and those who have lost their jobs, “holding our hand out to them.”
For the Chaldean primate, the “deadly corona epidemic” that has spread all over the world affecting millions of people” is “similar to the plague in Ezekiel's time”.
Overall, more than two million people have died and 96 million have been infected, a “catastrophe” with “negative consequences” in many respects, for “people's health, and social, cultural (education and study), economic and religious activities (which have been suspended in churches and mosques).”
This explains the decision to observe a period of fasting and prayer known as “The revival of Nineveh”, which will start “next Monday, 25 January, for a period of three days”. Linked to the biblical story of the prophet Jonah, it is a way to anticipate Lent.
To this end, the leaders of the Chaldean Church invite the faithful to abstain from food until noon or, for those who can, until the evening, and to participate at this time in daily prayer or hold special prayers, preparing themselves for penance and taking part, in person or via social media, in the Mass.
The practice of fasting, while evoking the tale of Jonah and Nineveh, actually refers to the outbreak of the terrible plague epidemic in Mesopotamia at the time of Ezekiel (570-581 BC) “when thousands of people died”, Card Sako writes.
In this context, Ezekiel “drew inspiration from the story of Jonah to urge people to pray and repent”.
Finally, the Chaldean primate urges people to pray “also for the return of peace, security and stability in our country and in the region after all the wars and conflicts that have exhausted it”.
“Let us also pray for the success of Pope Francis' visit; let us listen to his words as the people of Nineveh heard the words of Jonah, that they may have a better life.”