MUMBAI – Catholic clergy in Bangladesh will mark the World Day of Prayer for Humanity with an online retreat on May 14, answering Pope Francis’s call for all religious leaders to pray during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“Through social media, I have written to all my parishes about how the pope is supporting the World Day of Prayer for all religions, to ask God to stop the pandemic. I have exhorted every family to celebrate the day with prayer, fasting and works of mercy,” Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka told Crux.

The cardinal said he has used the Church’s Caritas charitable network, which partners with other faith groups, about the day, and invited them to join Christians and prayer and fasting.

“I have also posted my message in Bengali on the website, and it is being read by all Bengali speaking people around the world,” he said.

The initial proposal for the day of prayer came from the High Committee for the Human Fraternity, which was formed after Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar met in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019, to sign the Document on Human Fraternity

“As we await a cure that would spare humanity from this deadly pandemic, our only hope is that God Almighty will save the millions suffering around the world, and help scientists and researchers to succeed in finding the eagerly-awaited cure,” said Egyptian Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, the pope’s personal secretary who also serves as a member of the committee.

D’Rozario said the Church in Bangladesh has been working with poor and marginalized groups in the country during the pandemic.

He said they have focused on five main areas: Cleanliness and personal hygiene; limiting waste through recycling and other means; avoiding pollution; seeking moderation in living; and healthy eating, including using seasonal and local food.

“From beginning of April, nearly 811 families have received aid from the fund through local parish councils and the St. Vincent De Paul units in 25 Catholic parishes,” the cardinal told Crux. “In this second phase, with the pope’s prayer for the pandemic, we will increase the number of households being helped to 1,800 families in 26 parishes starting May 15th.”

Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo has also joined the appeal to support the May 14 day of prayer.

“Nothing has affected the whole world as radically as this virus,” said Bo, who serves as the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

“In a crisis we see leadership at work. The experts say that key elements of good leadership in crisis are: Direction giving, meaning making and empathy. A good leader offers a transparent framework for making decisions, makes sense of what is happening, understands how people feel, and so creates trust,” the cardinal said.

“A good leader persuades the collective to take collective responsibility in order to approach collective challenges. Good leaders protect the weak and model inclusiveness, quickly banishing any racism or division. A good leader takes special care of the at-risk communities. A good leader builds community and activates the antibodies against fear, anxiety and dislike,” he continued. “A well-informed people is more effective and powerful than an ignorant people. People deserve to know the facts. Countries with honest reporting are earning the willing cooperation of well-informed publics. The gravest epidemic we face is the erosion of trust. In a crisis like this the real leaders use their opportunities to build trust.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Thomas Dabre of Poona in India told Crux the World Day of Prayer for Humanity is a “great prophetic initiative.”

“The Diocese of Poona has readily welcomed the initiative and will observe the whole of May 14 in prayer, worship, and humanitarian and charitable works … and keeping a fast and abstinence,” the bishop said.

“It should be acknowledged by all that humanity cannot solve all its problems by its own strengths and resources. Science and technology, though very useful, cannot solve all of our problems; and they have sadly created problems for humanity because of human irresponsibility, greed, avarice and megalomaniac ambitioning,” he added.

“That is why I am greatly inspired by this initiative of the Pope and the Islamic leadership. It is an excellent spiritual leadership. It is a prophetic initiative,” Dabre said.

“What are we Christians and those of other religions and cultures supposed to be if not spiritual? The flesh perishes but the spirit lives. Our greatness and uniqueness lie in our spirit and not so much in our body. The risen Jesus is totally spiritual and totally human. Therefore, we cannot be bogged down with material and bodily things,” he said.