HONG KONG — Religious leaders in Hong Kong sent wishes for health and happiness to mark the Lunar New Year and acknowledged the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the time being, the epidemic is rampant. It is not only a challenge to our physical bodies but also a test to our souls,” said the Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders of Hong Kong, which includes Hong Kong Cardinal John Tong Hon. “In difficulties and adversities, we need to rely on our faith even more and abide by the true way, keep away from evils, and practice kindness.”

In China, Lunar New Year begins Feb. 12. Normally millions of people travel during the 40-day festival season. Several provinces and cities have asked people to restrict travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and church leaders in some areas, including Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong, urged extra care for religious ceremonies because of the pandemic.

The message from the colloquium, which also includes Taoist, Buddhist, Confucian, Muslim and Protestant leaders, was posted Feb. 5 on the website of the Sunday Examiner, newspaper of the Diocese of Hong Kong. This year is the Year of the Ox.

“For more than a year, the coronavirus disease has ravaged the world and though as a blessed land, Hong Kong is not spared. In face of the plague of the century, all Hong Kong people must work with one heart and one mind, uphold righteousness and benevolence, stand together through thick and thin, and jointly get over the critical situation,” the religious leaders said.

“If we can uphold the spirit of ‘establishing not merely oneself but also others; develop not merely oneself but also others,’ if we can let go prejudices and work hand in hand together to establish ‘a community of shared future for mankind’ and if we can be frank to one another and share fruits of collaboration, we firmly believe that we will survive the severe winter and welcome the arrival of spring.”

They prayed that the pandemic would end “and our daily life return to normal; that our country grow more prosperous and powerful and all people be happy; and that Hong Kong society enjoy social harmony, prosperity and stability.”