Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 May 2020

Prince Charles launches virtual memorial to UK Covid-19 victims

Initiative with St Paul’s Cathedral believed to be first national memorial to a pandemic

Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall arrive to take part in a 2 minute silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day AFP
Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Britain's Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall arrive to take part in a 2 minute silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day AFP

While much of daily life has gone digital during the coronavirus outbreak, in Britain the mourning of loved ones killed by the disease has also moved to the internet.

An online memorial launched by Prince Charles and St Paul’s Cathedral in London is lined with the faces of those who have died with Covid-19. Behind each picture is a brief message from loved ones.

“As long as we remember a person, they’re not really gone,” reads the tribute to Michael Byrne, who is pictured smiling in a flat cap in front of a stretch of water.

In a tribute left by the family of Mary Caroe, the former GP is grinning in a deep purple kaftan and sitting on a funfair carousel. “Remember Mary: her spirit, her vitality, her love. Sister, doctor, gardener, friend and ally to so many, mother and granny.”

The online book, called Remember Me, is believed to be the first national memorial for a pandemic.

St Paul's Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Sunrise, London, England. Getty Images
St Paul's Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Sunrise, London, England. Getty Images

In a video message recorded on the site, Prince Charles said that for too many British people, the coronavirus has brought shock, heartbreak and anxiety from the loss of a loved one. In mid-March the heir to the British throne, 71, was diagnosed with coronavirus and recovered during a two-week period in quarantine.

“People of every faith, and of none, believe that each human being is unique and precious. We also believe it is essential that we remember; we recall how our lives, individually and together, are shaped by the joys and sorrows of the past, so that we may look forward with hope for the future,” the Prince of Wales said.

“This virtual book of remembrance is here to help us remember,” he added. “Not just to recall our loss and sorrow, but also to be thankful for everything good that those we have loved brought into our lives, and all that they have given to others.”

The memorial is the result of discussions between the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Bishop of London and is funded through a charitable foundation set up by Sir Lloyd Dorfman, chair of the Prince’s Trust International, the charity founded by Prince Charles.

“In my work as a priest and formerly as a nurse I have been privileged to spend time with the dying and those who grieve. The loss and devastation we face at this time, as a nation and as a world community, cannot be measured. People of all faiths, beliefs and philosophies stand united in grief,” The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, said.

“This memorial book will be a place where individual losses are named and grief can be held in the solidarity of shared heartbreak.”

More than 36,000 people have died in the UK after testing positive for Covid-19 and around the world countries are finding their own way of expressing collective sorrow for their losses.

In the United States, the country worst hit by the pandemic, President Donald Trump has announced that flags on federal buildings will be flown at half-staff to honour Covid-19 victims and members of the military.

"I will be lowering the flags on all federal buildings and national monuments to half-staff over the next three days in memory of the Americans we have lost to the coronavirus," Mr Trump tweeted.

As China's legislature started its annual session on Friday morning in Beijing, the country’s media reported that President Xi Jinping, other Chinese leaders and legislators paid a silent tribute to the country's victims of the virus.

Oliver Caroe, an architect who holds the title of Surveyor of the Fabric of St Paul’s, is the son of Mary, the former GP whose tribute was the first to be submitted to the virtual memorial.

Mr Caroe, one of the key facilitators of the memorial, explained how not having close contact with his mother at the time of her death had been particularly difficult.

"Not having any of the closeness, face-to-face conversations or rituals that you would normally have in place with someone over their last days adds to the deep emotional impact," he said.

While a physical memorial is being planned for the inner porch of St Paul’s north transept, submissions are open to all people of all faiths. Tributes can be made to British victims of Covid-19 and also to those who lived in the UK at www.rememberme2020.uk.

Updated: May 22, 2020 11:15 PM

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