Saint Peter's Basilica, 2018

Saint Peter's Basilica. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC, 2018

An interfaith peace prayer service in Rome organized by the Sant'Egidio Community on 20 October drew Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu leaders who and prayed together.

In a joint appeal, entitled “No One Is Saved Alone – Peace and Fraternity,” they said: "The pandemic is reminding us that we are blood brothers and sisters. May we immediately unite our efforts to contain the spread of the virus until there is a vaccine that is suitable and available to all."

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew traveled from Istanbul to attend the socially distanced service.

Bartholomew reflected that care for the earth is an obligatory response to belief in God, the creator of all.

The world is experiencing a difficult period, he said, “but at the same time, a moment favorable for questioning ourselves, meditating, praying and acting to build a better society capable of facing the great challenges of the moment, which don’t impact only certain peoples and nations, but life itself in this marvelous home of ours — the world, a gift of the merciful God.”

Recognizing the “divine work” present in the environment and in each person, he said, would help people understand that fraternity and peace are not simply pious words, but lead to “true freedom” and an understanding “in this dark hour that ‘no one is saved alone.'”

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairperson of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, also gave a reflection.

With everyone wearing masks and sitting three feet apart, Bedford-Strohm told the congregation, “Our souls are confused. All the physical signs of connectedness — hands reaching out to each other, speaking closely face to face unmasked, embracing each other, giving each other hugs — all these physical signs, which so far have been expressions of love, have now become the enemy of love, have become a danger to the other, have become a potential source of suffering.”

“How can we as churches be heralds and agents of God’s healing?” he asked. “How can we be signs of peace and brother and sisterhood?”

The answer, the bishop said, is found in “the trinity of praying, doing justice and becoming one.”

Asking oneself if Christ is present in a refugee stuck in a camp or in a child who is starving “is the door opener to a fulfilled life. It is the path to peace and fraternity,” he said. “It is the source of healing.”

Pope Francis focused his remarks on the temptation to "save yourself," and think of your own problems and interests "as if nothing else mattered.”

"It is a very human instinct, but wrong," Francis said.

"No people, no social group, can single-handedly achieve peace, prosperity, security and happiness. None," he said. "The lesson learned from the recent pandemic, if we wish to be honest, is the awareness that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person's problems are the problems of all.'''

The Rome-based Sant'Egidio Community organizes an interfaith peace prayer each year, in the spirit of the first one of its kind, celebrated by St John Paul II in Assisi in 1986.

WCC work on Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation