While the Catholic Church in India loses another Bishop due to Covid-19, recording the death of 65-year-old Mgr. Basil Bhuriya Bishop of Jabhua, in Madhya Pradesh (after the death of Antony Anandarayar, Archbishop Emeritus of Pondicherry-Cuddalore), Christians in India observe today, May 7, a special “National Day of Fasting and Prayer” to ask God for an end to the pandemic.
“The devastating second wave of the pandemic has greatly altered everyone’s life, with millions of people struggling under the weight of a severe health and financial crisis. At this time of global pandemic, we urge Christians across the country to unite as one family to pray for a world free from Covid,” reads the note released by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, and President of the Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), and sent to Agenzia Fides.
The CBCI has appealed to all Christian confessions to share the day of prayer and fasting and turn to God in these moments of anguish, panic, and pain caused by the spread of Covid-19 infections. The faithful, are asked, wherever they are, to light a lamp at eight o’clock in the evening (Indian time) as a sign of spiritual communion. The proposal was accepted: this “National Day of Fasting and Prayer” is celebrated not only in all Catholic communities but also in the communities of the “National Council of Churches in India”, the ecumenical forum of Protestant and Orthodox Churches. “In the Catholic Church, priests, religious communities, and the faithful have been asked to spend at least an hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer, reading the Bible and meditating, reciting the Rosary and spontaneous prayers for the end of the pandemic.
We will make special invocations for the healing of the sick, for the dead, to console those who are in mourning, for health workers who are on the front lines, for the success of research in medicine and vaccines. We ask God for the strength of faith, hope, and charity”, explains to Fides Bishop Niranjan Sualsingh, at the head of the diocese of Sambalpur, in Odisha (eastern India). “We must pray today for the end of this terrible pandemic. Pray in a very special way for all those who suffer because they are directly or indirectly affected by Covid-19; for those who do not have access to necessary and emergency health care; for those who have lost a loved one; for those who have been denied the opportunity to celebrate the last rites with dignity in favor of their loved ones; for the poor, the vulnerable, migrant workers and day laborers, who are suffering terribly at this time”, Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, writer, and promoter of human rights and writer, told Fides. According to experts, May is the culmination of the second wave of the pandemic. Therefore, following health guidelines could help save lives. For this reason, many bishops ask parish priests, priests, and religious to postpone or cancel all programs and avoid travel and transfers, unless they are urgent.
Meanwhile, since May 4, the Archdiocese of Ranchi, in Jharkhand has been serving free lunch to people in front of the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, a public hospital. More than 300 people receive free lunch and the number could increase, the auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi, mgr. Theodore Mascarenhas of Ranchi told Fides. “These are difficult times for everyone. The Church stands beside the poor, the needy, and the vulnerable. We must not give up our hope, but resist and help with solidarity and courage”, he adds. In India, with the highest number of daily infections (more than 300 thousand) in the world “the health system has collapsed”, explains Fr. Suresh Mathew, editor of the English-language weekly “Indian Currents”.
Pope Francis sent a message to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, for the Covid-19 health emergency in the country.
“At this time when so many in India are suffering as a result of the current health emergency, I write to convey my deepest solidarity and spiritual closeness to all the Indian people, along with the assurance of my prayers for God to grant healing and consolation. to all those affected by this serious pandemic”, reads the message. “My thoughts – writes the Pope – go above all to the sick and their families, to those who take care of them and in particular to those who mourn the loss of their loved ones. I also think of the many doctors, nurses, hospital workers ambulance drivers, and those who work tirelessly to respond to the immediate needs of their brothers and sisters. With deep appreciation, I invoke upon all of them the divine gifts of perseverance, strength, and peace”. “In a particular way – Pope Francis continues – I join the Catholic community of your country, with gratitude for its works of charity and fraternal solidarity carried out at the service of all. I think especially of the generosity shown by so many committed young people. I join you in entrusting the Lord’s infinite mercy to the faithful who have lost their lives, including a great number of priests, men, and women religious. In these days of immense pain, may we all feel comforted by the hope that is born from Easter and by our unshakable faith in the promise of resurrection and new life of Christ.”