Religious leaders stand united with Canadians during COVID-19 pandemic

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]  – Canada’s Catholic bishops have joined with other faith leaders across the country to offer hope and solidarity to all Canadians as the nation faces an unprecedented national health and economic crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In spite of present sufferings, which can seem overwhelming at times, the flames of hope cannot be extinguished. Love, which gives life its fullest meaning, continues to seek out the common good in spite of individual difficulties,” a special statement released March 30, 2020 and signed by more than 80 Canadian faith leaders said.

The “A message to Canadians from religious leaders in Canada in response to the COVID-19 pandemic” acknowledges that “Canadians are experiencing the devastating impact of COVID-19” but said that “acts of kindness can bring us closer in spirit, despite the requirements of physical distancing.

“Let us witness hope to each other and so become beacons of light during these uncertain times,” the message said.

Link to the message in English

Link to the message in French

The call for spiritual solidarity comes as most places of worship in the country have been closed to the faithful as religious leaders have put into practice the necessity of Canadians to socially distance themselves. Worshippers across the country are not gathering in large numbers as demanded by health authorities in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly virus that has infected hundreds of thousand people around the world.

Initiated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus and with support from the Canadian Council of Churches and Canadian Interfaith Conversation, the message from Canada’s faith leaders offers spiritual support to those working on the frontlines of the health care battle to control COVID-19 and to all Canadians who fear for their health and the lives of their loved ones and their economic well-being.

“We all need to pull together. It is essential to carry out the practical requirements to limit the spread of this virus. It is also important to maintain a posture of attentive caring towards our neighbour,” the statement said in calling on Canadians of all faiths to “draw closer to God.”

“Religion and spirituality can indeed contribute to building people up, to providing a sense of meaning, inner strength, new horizons and openness of hearts. As religious leaders, we wish to emphasize, especially in times like these, the power and importance of prayer.

“We earnestly pray for healing, for the continued efforts to relieve human suffering, and for perseverance throughout these challenging times,” the message continued.

“As history records these moments for our country’s future, let us pray that, in the face of COVID-19, we respond with an abundance of hope, gratitude and solidarity, trusting in the loving and ever merciful God, the source of all hope.”

The message of interfaith solidarity came on the heels of a special “National Prayer for Canada” drafted by two Ottawa-based religious leaders, the Catholic Archbishop of Ottawa Terrence Prendergast and Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka, former co-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. They had called on Canadians of all faiths to share the prayer and pray together across the country on March 31 at 3 p.m. ET (1 p.m. Saskatchewan time).