The man stood in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue in a hazmat suit, gloves, respirator and goggles. Two soldiers wearing face masks bowed their heads solemnly. Over a dozen more in full-body gear paused from disinfecting the popular tourist site overlooking Rio de Janeiro’s skyline and beaches.
About the only clues that the man was a Roman Catholic priest leading the soldiers in prayer were his arms-wide gesture, mirroring that of the iconic hilltop statue, and the pale yellow liturgical stole draped over his head-to-toe personal protective equipment.
This is what faith looks like in the summer of COVID-19 — or winter, of course, in Rio and other Southern Hemisphere locales. In images published in August from Associated Press photographers around the world, religious services, sacred ceremonies and holiday observances took place with people trying to keep themselves and each other safe amid an unabating pandemic.
People assiduously wore masks as they visited an Istanbul church recently turned into a mosque; while attending a groundbreaking ceremony for a Hindu temple in Jammu, India; as they floated paper lanterns along the Motoyasu River in Japan on the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima; crawling in pilgrimage outside a Greek Orthodox island church for the Feast of the Assumption; at a procession marking ‘Gai Jatra,’ or cow festival, in Nepal.
In London, Rabbi David Mason led a Sunday communal prayer service in his synagogue’s outdoor parking lot with just a few pairs of distanced folding chairs set out for congregants — most were watching from home via live video stream just as they did for months previously under a strict lockdown.
Social distancing was also the norm on the beaches of Tel Aviv as Israeli Arab families enjoyed a day outdoors while observing Islam’s Eid al-Adha, a holiday commemorating the prophet Ibrahim’s obedience to God for being willing to sacrifice his son.
In Beirut, people are reeling from a double blow of not just the pandemic but the Aug. 4 port explosion that shattered windows, businesses and lives. On a recent evening, Mohammed Moussa knelt on a bed frame and pressed his forehead toward the ground in prayer, surrounded by salvaged belongings and the debris of his ruined home. It's an image emblematic of his city's struggles and how some rely on faith in trying times.
These and more are among the AP’s top faith-related images published in August.
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