On Tuesday Dec. 15, as the nation passes 300,000 lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cathedral will toll its 12-ton Bourdon Bell 300 times, once for each 1,000 lives cut short by the pandemic. The Bourdon Bell — the largest at the Cathedral — is typically tolled for funerals at the Cathedral.

As the nation and the Cathedral mark yet another grim milestone, the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of the Cathedral, issued the following statement:

We have reached the point in America where the death toll from COVID-19 for just one day was the equivalent of 16 fully loaded 737 jets falling from the sky. 

Think about that. We would never allow that kind of disaster to take place day after day in this country, and we certainly would never allow such tragedy to become normal or expected. And yet, the climbing death toll from this pandemic seems disturbingly routine. How awful that is.

As the Cathedral marks 300,000 lives lost to COVID-19, I have grown weary of tolling this bell. I don’t want to toll this bell any more. I don’t want to lose any more lives. I don’t want us to think this is normal, or that it is just the price we must pay for living in a free society. God forgive us if we find ourselves tolling this bell again at 400,000 lives lost.

The Christian faith teaches that each person is a beloved child of God, and that my well-being is deeply connected to your well-being. We are not lone individuals free from responsibility; rather, we are dependent upon one another for our very lives and commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

There are simple things we can do — wear a mask, keep our distance, adjust our holiday plans — to show our mutual respect and concern for one another.  Yes, we are tired from the confines and struggles of this pandemic, and yes, it’s been a long nine months. But now, more than ever, we have to protect each other because there has been far too much death. A vaccine is coming and we will get through these difficult days, but we will only succeed if we do it together. 

Lord, in your mercy, heal us from this disease. Remove the blindness from our eyes that keeps us from seeing your face in our neighbor. Soften our hearts, give us strength to endure and the will to act for the common good. 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. 


Tony Franquiz, 202-374-5393, [email protected]

Kevin Eckstrom, 202-390-0240, [email protected]


About Washington National Cathedral
Grounded in the reconciling love of Jesus Christ, Washington National Cathedral is a house of prayer for all people, conceived by our founders to serve as a great church for national purposes.