By Robin Gomes
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has sent separate messages to Pope Francis and Italian President, Sergio Mattarella. In it, he expresses his solidarity with the nation that is grappling with the pandemic.
Italy is the hardest hit. Saturday’s death toll soared to 793, the highest in a single day. The coronavirus has now infected a total of nearly 60,000 people and claimed 5,476 up to Sunday. The infection and death rate dropped slightly on Sunday, bringing some relief. The number of persons currently infected stands at 46,638. Northern Italy is the worst affected.
Spirit of sacrifice
In his messages, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians commends the spirit of sacrifice and courage that Italy’s healthcare workers are demonstrating. He also expresses his gratitude for the enormous efforts of doctors and nurses in assisting the sick.
At the same time, Patriarch Bartholomew expresses his closeness to the families of the those who have lost the battle against the virus. In addition, he pledges that "during Holy Lent, he will constantly pray to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for the healing of the sick, eternal repose for those who died and comfort for their relatives”.
Message to the Orthodox faithful
Earlier, in a message to the Orthodox faithful, Patriarch Bartholomew called for suspending church liturgies and services until the end of March. The 80-year-old Patriarch asked the faithful to respect the indications of authorities, beginning with staying at home. He also thanked those who are fighting the pandemic, especially the healthcare personnel. The Patriarch said he was joining others in praying so that science may win this war against the virus.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is not in communion with the Catholic Church. It is the second-largest Christian Church, with approximately 260 million members worldwide.
As the “first among equals” among all the bishops of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, based in Istanbul, Turkey, is regarded as the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians globally.