After two years of pandemic, most people are anxious to just move on, survey finds. Photo by Michael Swan

Survey: Readers oppose Pandemic Day, want COVID commemoration

By 
  • March 9, 2022

When COVID is over most Catholic Register readers just want to move on, but those same readers overwhelmingly would like their parish to mark a Pandemic Day.

Legislation that would make March 11 an annual Pandemic Day to remember Canadian deaths and suffering from COVID has been through two readings in the Senate and will now be studied by a Senate committee. March 11, 2020 was the day the World Health Organization finally declared a pandemic — an epidemic of global proportions. As of March 3, 36,729 Canadians have died of COVID. Globally, we’re just shy of six million dead, according to the WHO.

More than half our readers (58.75 per cent) told us in an online survey they just wanted to move on and never think about COVID again. But 85.86 per cent of those same people would like to see a special Pandemic Day Mass.

“Although mourning is often considered a personal matter, commemoration is a very important collective act,” the Bill S-209’s sponsor Sen. Marie-Françoise Mégie told The Catholic Register in an e-mail.

"I don’t want to remember a virus. I would rather remember positive events and people."

- Survey respondent

The secu- lar need to remember traumatic events and memorialize the dead, most obviously in annual Remembrance Day events, is matched by the Christian impulse to remember, said St. Joseph’s College lecturer in liturgy and sacramental theology Fr. Warren Schmidt. At the heart of every celebration of the Eucharist is anamnesis, a Greek word that means more than mere remembering.

“It’s a memory that actually takes past events and really past relationships — with God and with loved ones — and makes them present,” Schmidt said.

Eucharistic prayers always include prayers for the dead.

“Memory of the dead comes back to Christ, who gave his life for us,” said Schmidt.

While only a third of readers (32.5 per cent) who responded to The Catholic Register’s survey claimed to have lost family or close friends to COVID, a solid majority of those in mourning (70.51 per cent) claimed they had not had the chance to fully or publicly mourn their loss. Over 86 per cent of those in favour of some kind of COVID memorial have not been able to properly mourn their loss, but even among those who say they just want to move on, almost 60 per cent say they have not fully mourned their dead.

The self-selected 240 people who responded to the survey do not represent a scientifically valid sample of the Register’s readership or of Canadian Catholics. But they do reflect something of the mood of Canadian Catholics as the country begins to emerge from the restrictions and sacrifices of two years of lockdowns, masks, social distancing and vaccination drives.


58.75%

Would rather not think about the pandemic and just move on post-COVID.

85.86%

Would like a Pandemic Observance Day observed some way in the parish community.

81.67%

Agree that a Pandemic Observance Day should not be a national holiday.


There’s an opinion gap between those who favour a Pandemic Day and those who oppose it seen in comments from respondents.

“November 11 marked the end of (the First World War). Is March 11 the end of COVID? I don’t think so. The Spanish Flu (1919 to 1922), killed 55,000 Canadians. We don’t commemorate it. With a new war in Ukraine, I think we had better focus on the problems at hand,” said one of those who oppose a Pandemic Day.

“The pandemic affected everyone and those who lost their lives should not be forgotten,” said a respondent who favours some kind of memorial. “This was a world-wide tragedy caused by man and the casualties had family and friends. It speaks to how humankind should value one another and to the efforts of those who fought to keep others safe.”

An overwhelming majority of those who oppose a Pandemic Day don’t want to see it become a national holiday — with 98.58 per cent opposed. But among those who favour a Pandemic Day, over 42 per cent think a day to remember away from work is a good idea.

Among all respondents, almost two thirds (62.92 per cent) believe churches are crucial to how we grieve collectively and individually, with 37.08 per cent on the other side who believe churches are relevant to grief for a select minority. For those who favour a day to remember, three-quarters believe churches are not just for a few, but essential to the grieving process.

Political divisions around COVID figured in many responses.

"Memorials should be for people who accomplished things, not just for being killed by a deadly disease."

- Survey respondent

“There has been a lot of divisiveness within families, churches, workplaces, religions, races, nationalities, etc.” said one respondent who was in favour of just moving on. “We have had blockades which have brought out weaknesses, bigotry, infighting, selfishness, self righteousness, lack of consideration for others, and a gross lack of strong leadership. It has disrupted and divided our country in a way that we have never seen. We will be reminded of these events for years to come and it has not been a proud Canadian moment.”

For some readers there is a deep sense of religious duty around the issue.

“This great plague slew over five million souls across the planet; how can we not say a few words for them?” wrote a reader who favours Pandemic Day. “People who don’t know God might not care. But I don’t see how God would look kindly on us for not saying some prayers and offering some indulgenced prayers to help these souls move on from purgatory or be excused from there altogether?”

But not everyone attaches significance to COVID.

"Better to have an all-encompassing day to memorialize world health issues and its victims."

- Survey respondent

“COVID is just a virus.” wrote one opposed to a day of remembrance. “I don’t want to remember a virus. I would rather remember positive events and people.”

For others, there’s a sense of civic duty.

“We have all lost family, friends, colleagues, medical staff and others,” said a reader who is personally mourning lost loved ones. “We must remember them as human beings failed by those in charge, and prevent this ever happening again. We are all one family.”

Besides a Pandemic Day Mass for the dead, there were four suggested ways of remembering COVID that drew significant support from respondents. A health sciences scholarship for young parishioners was popular with 10.8 per cent. A book of remembrance had the support of 9.6 per cent. A plaque or statue was favoured by 7.9 per cent.

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