“This pandemic has taught us a lot. Pain and difficulties open doors.”
At sunset, a young, Muslim man with a microphone leads the traditional call to prayer.
Normally, he’d be standing in a mosque. Tonight, he’s in a Catholic, medieval stone church called Santa Anna in Barcelona’s Old City.
Thursday marks the 24th day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of praying and fasting. The traditional dinner at nightfall each day is called iftar. It’s usually a chance for friends and family to break fast together. But in Spain, mosques can’t host this year.
Spain’s COVID-19 group-dining rules have hobbled restaurants across the country. Spain’s Islamic authorities also recommend that observers limit the time they spend in places of worship to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The country recorded 2,757 COVID-19 deaths in April, the lowest monthly figure since last September, though some regions were hit hard by the third wave of the coronavirus and saw an uptick, according to El País.
As a result, many of the country’s 2 million Muslims are celebrating iftar alone. But an unlikely ally has emerged to keep the festive tradition alive, at least for some in Barcelona’s Old City: Santa Ana Church, which has a courtyard that accommodates COVID-19 rules.
The centuries-old, progressive church hasn’t hosted iftar meals before, but it feeds the poor regularly, even amid the pandemic.
Rector Peio Sánchez looked on during the prayer, dressed in his traditional black priest’s apparel.
“They say that challenges always create opportunities,” he said. “This pandemic has taught us a lot. Pain and difficulties open doors.”
In this case, the doors to the church’s expansive, open-air cloister — which he sees as a way to stand in solidarity with Muslims.
“This is a gesture that shows that interreligious dialogue is advancing as well as hospitality among the religions. For us, it’s the normal thing to do. When we show hospitality to others we learn from them.”
“A unique contribution for the spirituality of deacons.” —Most Rev. Shawn McKnight, Bishop of Jefferson City
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