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‘We hold them all up in prayer.’ Church bells rang in Boston Wednesday to honor lives lost to COVID-19

Hien Vu rang the bells at St John's Seminary in Brighton at noon.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

The Archdiocese of Boston joined other parishes across the country to ring bells Wednesday to honor the lives of the almost 340,000 people in the United States who have died from COVID-19 in 2020, according to a statement.

At noon, the sounds of church bells were heard in Boston in honor of those who have died across the country, including the more than 12,000 people who have died in Massachusetts from the virus, the archdiocese said in a statement Tuesday.

At the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End, the cathedral’s largest bell rang for five minutes in memory of those who have died. After the bell was rung, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley offered remarks remembering those lost during the pandemic.


“Many of our loved ones who contracted the virus and passed away died alone and separated from their families,” O’Malley said at the cathedral. “Many of them were not able to even have the advantage of having their families and loved ones gathered for a funeral. But today, we hold them all up in prayer and we remember them and we pray for the safety of all of our people and pray that the New Year will bring us hope and healing and that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.”

Others were encouraged to join in the bell tolling, to “mourn the souls lost, to comfort the families and friends who grieve, and to move forward, together, in the hope of the blessings that await us in 2021,” the archdiocese said.

The Boston Archdiocese was invited to participate by the Archdiocese of New York. The ringing of church bells, traditionally, shows to the community that a “moment of solemnity” is happening, the statement read.

“Our country has not witnessed a daily death toll on this scale in its recent history and, as the year draws to a close, there is a pronounced need to publicly acknowledge the devastating loss of life that the year brought with it,” the Archdiocese of New York said in a statement. “The Church is uniquely called to bring communities together to honor the dead and to offer a space for mourning, in order that the restoration that is sure to follow, in the Name of Christ, whom we honor this Christmas, may too begin.”


Parishes were encouraged to post videos or messages on social media, with the hashtags #ringbells, #farewellbells, #churchbells, and #BostonCatholicRingBells included, showing their bell ringing.

Breanne Kovatch can be reached at breanne.kovatch@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @breannekovatch.