By Robin Gomes
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) called for a day of fasting and prayer on the first Friday of May. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), called for the observance, proposing to bishops across the nation to gather in their cathedrals or bishops’ houses at around midday to pray.
For his Archdiocese of Bombay, the cardinal prepared a prayer service which included a moment of silence, prayer intentions, a reading from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus walks on the water with a reflection on it, and a concluding a prayer to Virgin Mary.
Prayers for the nation
“At this time of global pandemic, we pray for the sick and the suffering, for all of us who feel fear and anxiety,” read the introduction to the prayer service for Bombay Archdiocese. “While we thank all those who are in the frontline - doctors, nurses, medical and hospital staff, care workers, family members, friends, and strangers - we pray for their safety, health, and strength.” Prayers were offered for those responsible as decision-makers and law enforcers, that they may be guided in their choices and actions, to be unselfish and magnanimous; that the scientific community may find ways to “contain the pandemic and defeat its deadly power”.
Prayers were urged for Mother Earth, that she may recover from the exhaustion and devastation caused by humanity; and that people, while exercising precaution and social responsibility, may reach out to the weakest and most vulnerable, showing compassion and care through creative ways.
Some bishops also recommended holding Eucharistic adoration besides reading and meditating on the Word of God and praying the rosary according to convenience.
Several Christian Churches also joined the Indian Catholic bishops’ initiative. The World Council of Churches (WCC), a fellowship of 350 Churches representing over 500 million Christians worldwide, said that the CBCI, the National Council of Churches in India and the Evangelical Fellowship of India observed the day of prayer and fasting. “We stand with you in solidarity and prayer in the midst of the suffering and loss of thousands of lives in India,” the WCC and the Christian Conference of Asia assured Indian Christians in a pastoral letter. Earlier on Wednesday, they expressed their concern, grief, and prayerful solidarity with the Churches in India.
For the May 7 initiative, the WCC offered resources to help people pray, including the publication “Voices of Lament, Hope, and Courage,” designed for use in prayer groups, congregational services, personal prayer, and in the pastoral accompaniment of those directly affected in different ways by the pandemic.
Pope’s prayer campaign
Pope Francis on Thursday sent a message to Cardinal Gracias expressing his closeness and solidarity to all the people of India as they face a devastating health crisis. While praying for healing and consolation for everyone, he thought of the sick, the dead and their families, expressed appreciation for healthcare personnel and helpers for their tireless work and thanked the Catholic Church for its charity and solidarity in the service of all.
The Indian Christians’ came during the Marian month of May, which Pope Francis has dedicated to a worldwide "marathon" of prayer to implore God for an end to the pandemic and the resumption of normal social and work activities. The initiative involves 30 Marian shrines around the world, with each shrine taking turns to lead the rosary on a particular day. Each day is assigned a particular intention.
The Pope inaugurated the rosary ‘marathon” on May 1 at the altar of Perpetual Help in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Each day, the rosary is streamed live on Vatican News at 6:00 pm Rome time (UTC 4:00 pm). The May 7 rosary will be recited from the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in the Philippines. The intention is for all the families.