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Indian Catholics seek divine intervention to tame pandemic

The faithful join Pope Francis in a month-long rosary recitation as Covid-19 cases pass 20 million

Indian Catholics seek divine intervention to tame pandemic

A man waits to refill his medical oxygen cylinder for a Covid-19 patient under home quarantine at a private refill center in New Delhi on May 4 as India's cases soared past 20 million. (Photo: AFP)

Along with Pope Francis, Catholics in India have started a month-long rosary recitation seeking divine intervention to save them from Covid-19 as the pandemic continues to kill thousands daily.

The pope launched the marathon prayer on May 1 at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, urging Catholics across the world to say the rosary daily during May, the month traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“We started daily rosaries online at 8pm from our cathedral church from May 1 as we cannot gather in our parishes because of the Covid-19 lockdown,” said Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore in Karnataka state.

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Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), the state capital, is among India’s worst-hit cities, where close to 150 Catholics have lost their lives to the pandemic in the past fortnight. The archdiocese has some 450,000 Catholics.

“Just the other day, one parish lost 19 people. Our cemeteries are full,” Archbishop Machado told UCA News on May 3.

“During our rosaries, we pray for those who have died from the pandemic, for those who have been infected and for the medical workers including paramedical staff and all other frontline workers.”

The prayer services give both spiritual and psychological support to everyone in distress

In New Delhi, India’s national capital where people are dying for want of medical facilities including oxygen, Delhi Archdiocese has started online rosary recitations for people to join from home.

“We have rosaries every day online as we cannot gather in the parishes,” said archdiocesan spokesperson Father Savarimuthu Sankar.

The archdiocese also has round-the-clock uninterrupted prayers for the people of Delhi and others suffering from Covid-19.

“The prayer services give both spiritual and psychological support to everyone in distress,” Father Sankar told UCA News on May 3.

Many Catholic dioceses in India have also started special prayers including fasting after the second wave of the pandemic struck in the second week of April, infecting more than 300,000 people daily.

India reported 357,229 new cases and 3,449 deaths on May 4, taking the total infected to more than 20 million. The pandemic has killed more than 222,000.

Bombay Archdiocese based in badly hit Mumbai city started rosaries on May 1, said Father Nigel Barrett, the spokesperson of Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Bombay.

“With the prayers, we are trying to give a sense of solidarity and hope to those who are suffering,” Father Barrett told UCA News on May 3.

When we cannot physically help people, prayer is our only solution

Ranchi Archdiocese in the eastern state of Jharkhand has started an online rosary crusade against the pandemic since April 24 in the local Hindi language.

“Our hospitals are full in towns and cities where the pandemic outbreak is at its peak,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Ranchi’s auxiliary bishop and former secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

“I feel heartbroken when our people, including priests and nuns, die. We try our best to reach out to the suffering people. When we cannot physically help people, prayer is our only solution,” the bishop told UCA News on April 30.

Bishop Varghese Chakkalakal of Calicut in Kerala state joined the faithful for a special prayer of mercy on May 1 at 3am.

“God will show his mercy on humanity and end the series of pandemic deaths. As we cannot do much in our human capacity, I am sure God will surely intervene,” he said.

Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati in the northeastern state of Assam said Catholics in his archdiocese continue to offer Eucharistic, community and family prayers “pleading for the mercy of God to overcome the pandemic.”

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