(Source: MJ/Vatican News)

“The role of religious leaders in addressing the multiples challenges of COVID-19”. That was the theme of a virtual UN conference held May 12 which focused on a number of important issues, including the role religious leaders can play in promoting unity and solidarity at this challenging time.

Among those taking part in the meeting was Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

He began his speech by recalling an empty St Peter’s Square where, on March 27, Pope Francis prayed for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also quoted the Pope’s words on that rain and wind-swept evening:

“We have realised that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other”.

During his address, the Cardinal focused on three key points: unity, solidarity and fraternity.


Speaking about unity, Cardinal Ayuso said “we must always remember that the basis of our collaboration and dialogue is the common root of our humanity; we are all part of our human family”.

“I believe”, he continued, “that we have become more united and we have understood that our life, the life of our communities, cannot be separated from that of others. We are dependent on each other”.  

Ayuso underlined that “our feeling of unity is not from the strength of economic power or that of arms, but rather because we have discovered ourselves as weak and fragile and, therefore, in need of each other”.


Turning to the second key point, solidarity, the cardinal said that “this awareness of our unity requires us, as religious leaders together with our communities, to be in solidarity with hard-hit humanity”.

He stressed that “this cannot be a moment of indifference, or selfishness, or division; with the whole of humanity suffering, we must be united in facing the pandemic”.

“The way forward is to find the courage to open the space for new forms of solidarity”, the cardinal said.

He also emphasised that no one should be “left behind” at this difficult time.

“I believe”, said Cardinal Ayuso, “that the emergence of this epidemic requires a great effort, obviously in terms of health and economics”, but also an even greater effort “to lay a new foundation for defeating all injustice and inequality”.

The world, he underlined, must not return to what it was before the pandemic, but rather it must “seize the opportunity to create a new and better global society”.


On the issue of fraternity, the cardinal said that as one human family, “we recognise each other as brothers and sisters” and that “this awareness is the first step to tearing down the walls raised because of fear and ignorance”.

“This pandemic provides the impetus to seek to build bridges of friendship and fraternity, which are fundamental for the good of all humanity. This spirit of fraternity, in which we are united, will sustain us and help us to overcome these difficult moments”.

Day of Prayer

Recalling the Pope’s Easter Urbi et Orbi message, Cardinal Ayuso said that in this time of uncertainty, our mission is to spread “a contagion of hope”.

He also invited people to take part in the day of prayer, fasting and good deeds proposed by the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity, which is being observed today, May 14.

The cardinal concluded his speech by saying that religious leaders are called to promote unity, solidarity and fraternity.

“I hope that out of this difficult moment we can all emerge better than we were before, and help our society to be ready to change everything that is necessary, not only following the laws of economic profit”.

More on Novena on today’s day of prayer against the pandemic:

14/5: Santa Marta Mass: Francis prays for end to coronavirus, “terrible pandemics” of hunger, war, uneducated children

Muslim, Catholic leaders launch joint appeal to make post-COVID-19 world “a better place for fraternity than ever before”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.