On Sunday 22 May, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli celebrated a Memorial Mass for all those who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar Masses were held in parishes around the Archdiocese and more than 1,100 names were inscribed in the Book of Remembrance, with more likely to be added in the coming weeks.

Earlier this month, it was reported that more than 3,000 Victorians had lost their lives to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Countless others lost family and friends during this time, both here and overseas, and were unable to farewell their loved ones due to COVID restrictions.

One parishioner shared her family's heartbreak at the loss of their father. ‘Thank you for this very generous gesture in remembering families who had to say goodbye to loved ones during the pandemic,’ they wrote.

My father passed away from dementia in a very short period of time after being diagnosed (eight months) in a nursing home in Tasmania. My sister, who resides in Wollongong NSW, and myself who resides in Melbourne, could not be by his side when he passed, or attend his funeral due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions.’

‘This was a very difficult and lonely time, not only to mourn the passing of our father (the first parent to pass away) but also to be so distant (1,000km) from each other, unable to comfort each other during this difficult period in our lives.

The impact of having to say goodbye, via a Facebook funeral (although better than nothing) did not provide any closure for the family.’

With international travel postponed during much of the pandemic, many Victorians were unable to visit loved ones overseas and missed the opportunity to say farewell.

‘I would like you to remember my father, who passed away on 23 November 2020 in Hyderabad, India,’ another person wrote. ‘My brothers and I could not be with him at this time due to the pandemic. He died peacefully at home surrounded by his sisters which was a comfort to us as my Mum, had passed away in 2017.’

Melbourne Catholic Liz Winston shared how she lost both her parents in 2020 and 2021, during Victoria's strictest lockdown periods. When her mother died, only seven family members were allowed to attend the funeral, while the rest waited outside. Sadly, a Catholic funeral Mass was unable to be held due to the restrictions.

‘Mum would have rolled over in her grave because she couldn’t have Mass,’ Liz says. ‘Mum was very Catholic, and she’d already prepared her whole Mass booklet; she’d given it to me to organise. So it was horrible knowing that we couldn’t actually give her a Mass. Mum was very much a family person, though, so at least we could have the family around her.’

During his homily, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli acknowledged the great, largely silent, pain that the community continues to carry at this time.

‘In our Book of Remembrance, we have already recorded more than 1,100 names of God’s friends,’ he said.‘ All of them, and others besides, have made now that journey into light and eternal life.

We who remain have, over these past two years, carried the sadness and anguish of not being able to properly farewell these members of our families, or friends we have made. ... To us, Jesus now speaks his words of hope and healing, and of the greater journey that lies before us all.

‘In so many ways, the road of human struggle remains for us. Covid continues to take its toll; war has reappeared; a new parliament will need to grapple with economic, social and security challenges; personal and family realities will always emerge.

‘Yet, this road also extends into the hope of a new Jerusalem, and a new way of living. The journey of Jesus to his death was what enables our journey into his resurrection. It is to us that his love and peace are given, now that those we have loved are at peace.’

To add names to the Book of Remembrance, visit this online portal.