As nation marks 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, Cardinal Gregory offers prayer during CNN’s National Memorial Service
Feb 23, 2021
US & World
During a Feb. 22 interview with CNN, Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory offered a prayer for those who have died from COVID-19 related causes, asking God to “grant enteral peace to all our sisters and brothers lost to this disease.”
“Let us now open our hearts to recall those who have died from the coronavirus,” Cardinal Gregory prayed. “Strengthen those families and friends who remain behind, to comfort one another and to wipe the tears from our eyes. May each one find peace, and let the memory of our loved ones itself be a blessing.”
The cardinal called it “a great honor and privilege” to offer the prayer at the invitation of Jake Tapper, CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent. Tapper spoke with Cardinal Gregory on a special program titled “We Remember 500,000: A National Memorial Service for Covid-19”as part of the cable news channel’s commemoration of the grim milestone that as of Feb. 22, the United States surpassed 500,000 deaths due to the coronavirus, the most of any other country.
More than 1,200 coronavirus deaths were reported Feb. 22, bringing the nationwide total to 500,103. More than 28.2 million Americans have been infected by the virus. Also, as of Feb. 22 close to 13 percent of the U.S. population has received the first round of the COVID-19 vaccine, and about 6 percent received both shots.
“We pray that – regardless of race, age, religious heritage, economic or immigration status – all people are able to receive the life-saving vaccine to bring an end to our common suffering,” Cardinal Gregory prayed.
Noting that “our hearts are filled with gratitude for our doctors, nurses and emergency personnel,” the cardinal also prayed “they remain well and be strengthened.”
Cardinal Gregory offers a prayer during the Feb. 22 CNN program remembering the 500,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19. (CS screen capture/Andrew Biraj)
“May the One who fashioned us help us to focus on our mutual humanity,” Cardinal Gregory prayed. “Although weary from so many months of isolation, help us not to lose hope, help us to continue to care for our neighbors as we remember those we have lost in this pandemic.”
Prior to offering the prayer, Cardinal Gregory noted that while “the poor, the elderly, people of color have experienced a disproportionate amount of sadness” due to the coronavirus, the pandemic “has increased our awareness of our common humanity.”
“We have been brought to a deeper awareness we are one people and this illness, this disease, this virus is no respecter of persons,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Gregory was asked by Tapper what the Catholic faith teaches about helping one another when it is not safe to physically come together.
“I have often said that we Catholics are grateful that we have each other, even under these limited and painful moments when we cannot be with each other, to reach out and embrace and be in the presence of those who are suffering,” Cardinal Gregory said.
The cardinal said that the “sacramental reality” of the Catholic faith “is expressed in Word and sacrament, in sign and prayer and music,” and “not being able to have a full display of those sacramental signs of our faith is itself an additional sorrow."
Cardinal Gregory speaks during CNN’s Feb. 22 “National Memorial Service for Covid-19.” (CS screen capture/Andrew Biraj)
Cardinal Gregory in recent months has taken to the national stage to pray for those who have died from the coronavirus as well as their families and friends, to call all people to work together and recognize their common humanity, and to advocate that people get the vaccine once it is made available to them.
Offering the invocation at a pre-inauguration memorial service beside the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool that was attended by President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Jan. 19 and was held to honor and remember the then- 400,000 Americans who have succumbed to COVID-19, Cardinal Gregory prayed that “the Lord of all receive these our sisters and brothers (who have died from COVID-19) into Eternal Peace and to comfort all of those who grieve the loss of a loved one.”
“Our sorrow unites us to one another as a single people with compassionate hearts,” the cardinal said. “May our prayer strengthen our awareness of our common humanity and our national unity at a time when harmony is a balm that seeks to comfort and strengthen us as a single people facing a common threat that is no respecter of age, race, culture, or gender.”
Also, on Jan. 19 speaking with New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Sirus XM Radio’s The Catholic Channel, Cardinal Gregory called it “a small gesture but a significant one to invite others to pray with those families who lost loved ones and did not have the opportunity to grieve them,” he added.
In a Feb. 15 interview with Al Roker, cohost of NBC’s TODAY show, Cardinal Gregory said “if we are going to heal, we have to remember we have to heal together.”
Last month, during a livestreamed Mass for the community of Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, Cardinal Gregory encouraged people to get the coronavirus vaccine when it is made available to them.
“We have the vaccines that are effective in helping to protect us, and I urge and plead and invite all of our students, faculty, parents, grandparents, teachers (and) benefactors to make good use of those vaccines, to get vaccinated,” the cardinal said at that Mass. He added it is the grace of Jesus “that allows these vaccines, and the medical and scientific researchers to prepare and to successfully present ways for us to bring this virus under control.”
In a recent interview with Religion News Service, Cardinal Gregory noted that in the African-American community there is a distrust and suspicion of available COVID vaccines.
“There is present, in the African-American community, hesitation,” the cardinal said in that interview. “But let’s not miss the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of this medical scientific discovery. Let’s not allow the past to keep us from having a future.’”
Cardinal Gregory also joined Maryland’s bishops in urging the faithful to receive the vaccine once it is made available to them.
“Given the grave risk of harm to others, we strongly encourage the faithful to receive a vaccine against COVID, unless medically indicated otherwise,” the bishops wrote in a statement issued in December. “It is vitally important that the most vulnerable among us and those who are from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID receive the vaccine swiftly.”