LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Cardinal Vincent Nichols on Thursday evening said the work of frontline healthcare workers in the COVID-19 pandemic bears “the hallmark of the Christian faith.”
Nichols was speaking during a Mass for the sick and their families, healthcare workers, and those working in social care. It was the first in a series of Masses to be celebrated in different cathedrals in England at 7 p.m. every Thursday.
The time was chosen so it would precede the round of applause for National Health Service workers that has been taking place at 8 p.m. every Thursday around the UK since the country went into lockdown last month to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“To this public applause we wish to add public prayer,” said the cardinal, who is also the president of the bishops’ conference for England and Wales.
“So this evening we pray for all those who, day by day, come face to face with this virus, in our hospitals, in care homes, in house visits; in research laboratories and surgeries. We thank them for their courage and generosity of heart which sustains their efforts. We salute their great commitment to their patients whom they serve so unselfishly,” Nichols said.
“We pray also for those whose families include people with special and demanding needs, that within the confines on their homes this same courageous and generous spirit will be strengthened and sustained. We pray for those who are suffering with the effects of this dreadful virus, for those who have died and for their grieving families and friends,” he continued.
Nichols also pointed to the Christian roots of modern healthcare, noting that care for the sick and dying was “very restricted” in the Roman world “until the disciples of Jesus began to provide it.”
“Its characteristics of self-sacrifice and courage and its commitment to caring for all, especially for the poorest, sprang forth from the determination to follow the teachings of Christ who said that he is to be found, and served, especially in the poorest, the most needy and those least able to help themselves,” the cardinal said.
Nichols said those healthcare workers fighting the pandemic on the frontlines “know so vividly how devastating this virus is to human health and life.”
“They see it every day. And every day they return to the front line,” he said, reminding the rest of society that “our part in this effort is so different.”
“Yes, deprivations are placed on us, including not being able, as yet, to return to our churches and sacraments, a deprivation we feel very deeply indeed,” the cardinal said.
However, he warned against “any sense of self-pity as we play our part in these life-saving disciplines.”
“In all of this we are comforted by the unwavering presence of our Blessed Lord. We must have eyes to see Him in every place and in every moment,” Nichols said. “Our prayer must be steadfast, for there is no doubt that the power of God is both needed and moving in this epic struggle.”
Next week, Bishop Richard Moth will celebrate the Thursday evening Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady and St Philip Howard in Arundel, in the south of England.