Pope Francis and the XIV Dalai Lama: The role of global religious leaders during COVID-19

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores the unusual call by Pope Francis and the XIV Dalai Lama to ask for divine protection and deliverance during the pandemic of 2020. During March 2020 most of Europe went into lockdown as the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread through major cities and all countries within the European Union. While the pandemic did not respect borders Christian and Buddhist communities found themselves affected not only in Europe but throughout the world. The response by Pope Francis was of a global invitation for Christians, and indeed people of all and no faith to join him in prayer on the 27th March. Those joining in their millions witnessed not only the solidarity of a shared humanity but saw Pope Francis standing on his own in St. Peter’s Square, under the rain and in lockdown, leading a common prayer and delivering a homily in which he spoke about opening our boats to the stranger, to the poor, and to all regardless of their nationality, creed or race. He prayed in front of the image of Christ who had saved Rome in the past for deliverance, mercy and health for the whole world as his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing to the City and the World was received by Christians and non-Christians all over the world. It was the first global event that followed the shock of the pandemic and this author witnessed it in Chile connected with Buddhists and Hindus from all over the world. Later, on the 29th and 30th May, the XIV Dalai Lama imparted together with Buddhists and people of all faith present online from all over the world the Tibetan Buddhist Avalokiteshvara Empowerment during the mornings of the 29th and 30th May (IST) from his home in Dharamshala, India. This was the first time that the Dalai Lama performed a “transmission of knowledge” online and with more than a million people connected from different places in the world. Avalokiteshvara is the earthly manifestation of the self-born eternal Buddha Amitabha, whose figure is represented in his headdress, and he guards the world in the interval between the departure of the historical Buddha, Gautama, and the appearance of the future buddha, Maitreya. The Dalai Lama initiated all present on the rituals and transmissions of the blessing known as ‘the Lion’s Roar’ to keep us all safe during the Pandemic. Over two mornings the role of the Bodhisattva was outlined and those present were commissioned to transmit such knowledge to others and to exercise compassion to the world. Interfaith dialogue was realised, and communities came together as never before.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterfaith in the Age of Coronavirus
Subtitle of host publicationA comparative examination of faith communities responses
EditorsIrfan Raja, Ruth Dowson, Abdul Basit Shaikh, Ivan Cohen
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication statusIn preparation - 1 Dec 2020


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