Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis  worldwide recital of Lord's Prayer to 'unite us in testing times'

The Coronavirus has claimed more than 17,000 lives around the world and there are currently more than 400,000 active cases

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Pope Francis, right, greets the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during vespers prayers in the church of San Gregorio al Celio, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.
Pope Francis, right, greets the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during vespers prayers in the church of San Gregorio al Celio, in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. Credit: Gregorio Borgia /Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis will join forces to encourage millions of Christians to come together for a worldwide recital of the Lord's Prayer.

The Most Rev Justin Welby, the most senior bishop in the Church of England, and Pope Francis, who acts the global head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, have called on Christians to “unite us in testing times”.

The religious leaders are asking people to recite the Lord’s Prayer at noon on Wednesday. 

The Pope tweeted: “We want to respond to the virus pandemic with the universality of prayer, compassion and tenderness. Let us stay united. I invite all Christians to direct their voices together toward Heaven, reciting the Our Father on Wednesday, 25 March, at noon. #PrayTogether.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury added: “I’ll be praying the Lord’s Prayer with Pope Francis and millions around the world tomorrow. Please join us wherever you are. Prayer unites us in testing times. #PrayTogether.”

Their announcement came as the Church of England said it is closing all of its buildings with immediate effect in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

This means funerals and churches cannot take place inside CofE buildings while baptisms will only be performed in "emergencies" in hospitals or private homes.

The Coronavirus has claimed more than 17,000 lives around the world and there are currently more than 400,000 active cases. Yesterday the health secretary announced that 422 deaths were in the UK. 

Anglican officials suspended public worship and Sunday services on March 17 but kept churches open for private prayer, while bishops in London shut churches in the capital on Sunday.

However today, archbishops and bishops wrote to the clergy saying that only buildings being used as foodbanks could remain open.

The letter said: "We must take a lead in showing our communities how we must behave in order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

"We must also do all that we can to provide resources and support for those who are isolated, fearful and vulnerable. But we have to do this from our homes."

Clergy who are using live-streaming services to help their congregations worship should do so from their own homes, officials have urged, and are being asked to be as creative as possible with streaming services and other resources.

The Church of England will also be offering a national weekly service which will be broadcast online each Sunday via social media and daily audio of prayer during the day and night prayer will also be available. 

On Sunday, a record five million people heard or saw a service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury which was streamed online and broadcast through dozens of radio stations. It marked the largest single ‘congregation’ in the history of the Church of England.