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As COVID-19 cases increase, Kenyans flee cities, seeking safety

IMAGE: CNS photo/Njeri Mwangi, Reuters

By Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- As the coronavirus cases rise in Kenya, many city residents are fleeing to their rural homes, despite a warning from clerics and government officials.

Weeks after COVID-19 was first reported, panicking Kenyans -- including Catholics -- left cities and towns and traveled to the rural villages, where they believe their families are safer from COVID-19.

"They are not safe in the villages either. It is just an assumption. In the event of an outbreak in the village, it would be difficult to control the virus," said Father Joachim Omolo Ouko, an Apostle of Jesus priest in the Kisumu Archdiocese.

The exodus has parallels to Italy, where thousands moved south in early March amid reports of government plans to quarantine regions in the north. Many boarded trains and buses ahead of the shutdown of Lombardy, a region that includes Milan and nearby provinces.

A similar migration occurred in the U.S., when panicking residents fled alleged containment of New York City and other large urban areas. The residents believed they would be safer in their weekend homes away from crowded cities. The movements did not stop the advancing pandemic in the two developed nations, which now have highest cases of the virus.

For Kenya, the safety concerns and fear of restrictions have also combined with factors such as easy access to food from farms in the rural areas to trigger the movement. Also, in the villages -- unlike the overcrowded Nairobi -- interactions with the outside world are limited, according to some of the residents.

"It all about safety. There are fewer people here and interactions are limited to my immediate family. Nairobi is everybody's place," Conso Maigallo, a Catholic who moved to Meru County from Nairobi with her two children, told Catholic News Service in an interview.

Crispin Isaboke, another Catholic, left Nairobi for his rural home in Kisii County.

"Nairobi is the epicenter of the epidemic in the country. My thinking is that the village is the safest place to be with my family," said Isaboke. "Food is also in regular supply. ... I am now working from (my rural) home as we have been advised."

Amid the exodus, Wickliffe Oparanya, head of the council of governors, urged people living in urban centers to shun the travels to avoid infecting rural areas poorly equipped to deal with any outbreak.

"Stay where you are. Stay at home," said Oparanya.

By March 30, Kenya had 50 confirmed cases. The country imposed a 7 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, shut schools, churches and asked people to stay at home. The government has also started collecting surplus food in preparation to combating the virus. It has asked counties to give data of the volumes of food available, including rice, corn, beans and wheat, among others.

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Amid coronavirus sacrifices, some bishops allow Friday meat in Lent

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jeenah Moon, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the U.S., this Lent started out with some people discussing if it was acceptable to eat plant-based burgers on Fridays in Lent.

But fast forward a few weeks and that discussion is very dated as burgers as well as other foods are not available in many of the still-bare grocery stores amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Twitter, where some had previously discussed their Lenten practices of giving something up for Lent, many questioned if they even had to keep up this practice when suddenly the whole nation was giving up life as they had known it as Lent began.

And by late March, just a few weeks before the end of Lent, several bishops across the country gave local Catholics the go-ahead to eat meat on Fridays, except on Good Friday, acknowledging that Catholics in their dioceses were coping with whatever food they had and certainly making their own sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to two days of fasting in Lent, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics 14 and older are obligated to abstain from eating meat during Fridays in Lent.

Two of the first bishops to announce a dispensation from this practice on March 20 were Bishops David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh and Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York.

Bishop DiMarzio said in statement that he was granting the faithful a dispensation from the Friday abstinence from meat to "assist people who may have difficulties in shopping for food or other reasons which would make this practice difficult at this time."

But he stressed that Fridays of Lent should "remain days of penance and prayer, which is needed now more than ever."

In his announcement, Bishop Zubik noted: "As you are aware, many of the shelves and cases in our supermarkets are sparse if not empty," adding that "pastoral necessity" informed his decision.

By March 26 at least two other dioceses -- Metuchen, New Jersey, Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana -- and the Archdiocese of Boston similarly lifted the Lenten Friday meat abstinence obligation.

"Given the difficulties of obtaining some types of food and the many other sacrifices we are suddenly experiencing given the coronavirus, I have granted a dispensation from abstaining from meat on Fridays for the rest of Lent, except Good Friday, which is universal law," said Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen.

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux said in a letter to diocesan Catholics that the coronavirus pandemic has "placed most, if not all, of our faithful in a situation wherein obtaining food, including meal alternatives from meat, the rising cost of fish and other forms of seafood and even the challenge of being able to obtain groceries without endangering their health, make it clearly difficult" to fulfill the Lenten practice of no-meat Fridays.

His announcement similarly mentioned that Fridays in Lent should "remain as days of penance and prayer."

He also said those who can continue to abstain from meat on Fridays should do so, but those who found it difficult were dispensed from the obligation and should instead "substitute this with other forms of penance, especially works of piety and charity in place of the abstinence" in accord with canon law.

Boston Auxiliary Bishop Peter J. Uglietto, who is archdiocesan vicar general and moderator of the curia, reminded local Catholics that their "plans for Lent this year have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis."

The bishop pointed out that the effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus has caused many to "give up many of the everyday activities we take for granted, including our usual participation in the life of the church."

"One of the effects of the current events is uncertainty regarding what food products are available on any given day. At this time, we are called to make the best of what we have at hand or is available for purchase," he said. "Many people are using what they have stored in their freezers and on their shelves. Others are depending upon pre-packaged meals or food delivered through support agencies, which are providing an important service for individuals and families in our communities, especially for children and our senior citizens."

Because of these circumstances, he said Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley was dispensing all Catholics in the archdiocese from the obligation of abstaining from meat during the remaining Fridays of Lent, with the caveat that those who could still do this should do so and "offer it up for those who are suffering in any way from the pandemic we are experiencing."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Dr. Fauci is dedicated to public service, formed at Jesuit high school

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters

By Peter Feuerherd

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has emerged for many as the voice of reason and integrity as the nation confronts the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Much of that he learned at Regis High School, a no-tuition, Jesuit-run boys college-prep school in New York City that is renowned as an academic haven. Fauci, a member of the class of 1958, told a group of alumni last May that attending the school "was the best educational period I could ever have imagined having."

Fauci also is a graduate of College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, another Jesuit institution, and Weill Cornell Medicine, then called Cornell University Medical College.

The alumni address was part of a return to Regis by Fauci, now 79 and known for his power walking, who, while not a household name at the time, was apparently nearing the end of a long career in government service working for six presidents.

"I take great comfort in knowing that when he speaks that he is speaking the truth and nothing but the truth," Jesuit Father Daniel Lahart, Regis' president, told National Catholic Reporter. Father Lahart now supervises a school, like most across the country, confined to online classes as COVID-19 disrupts normal life.

The priest said the most famous Regis alumnus has exuded integrity throughout a career, which, before this latest outbreak, was best known for raising the alarm about HIV/AIDS at the highest levels of government in the 1980s.

Fauci has emerged as a no-nonsense truth-teller in the latest crisis. While President Donald Trump has been prone to what have been criticized as overly optimistic daily briefings, it's been Fauci, frequently standing behind the president, who has tempered the optimism, whether it has been about the possibility of miracle cures or the hope of returning to business as usual.

In an interview with Science Magazine in late March, Fauci acknowledged that Trump's stretching of the truth during national news conferences creates an issue. But his response has been limited. "I can't jump in front of the microphone and put him down," Fauci told Science, a quote widely seen as an illustration of the tension between science and political talk.

"He's got a relatively good poker face. But not all of the time," Father Lahart said about Fauci.

During Fauci's visit to Regis last year -- he also visited a biology class at the school before talking to alumni -- he waxed nostalgically about his four years at Regis. Regis students come from all over the metropolitan region, picked out as eighth graders from the smartest boys from far-flung parochial schools.

The students often tell tales of heroic commutes. For Fauci it consisted of a couple of bus rides as well as two express subway trains, for a 70-minute, one-way ride to school from his home in Bensonhurst in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

He was captain of the basketball team, and if there were games and practices in Harlem, in the borough of Manhattan, or in the Bronx, another New York borough, the ride home could take nearly two hours. Regis students also were expected to do three hours of homework a night, a discipline he takes to public service.

On the first day of his freshman year, he recalled, the Jesuit dean of discipline, Father Flanagan, changed his name from Anthony to Tony, and it stuck.

Fauci said he navigated through six presidential administrations in Washington by being decidedly apolitical and nonideological. He offered insights into some of the presidents he served, beginning with President Ronald Reagan.

Reagan, who he said was personally a warm and friendly person, never even addressed the AIDS crisis until his second term, unwilling to deal with the topic for years while the epidemic raged, failing to use the presidential bully pulpit to marshal resources against the disease.

Fauci described Reagan's successor, President George H.W. Bush, as extraordinary, noting that as vice president, Bush had visited Fauci's AIDS patients. President Bill Clinton was absorbed in the science of countering AIDS, while President George W. Bush pushed Fauci to develop a program to counter AIDS in Africa, which Fauci credited with saving 14 million lives via the distribution of drugs that treated the disease.

Fauci earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the second President Bush for his work in Africa. But Fauci said the president was ultimately responsible for the program, motivated by a concern that the U.S. and other wealthy countries should not be the only places in the world where HIV/AIDS could be effectively treated.

Last year, he told the Regis group that the long fight against HIV/AIDS, which included times of helplessness when he was unable to assist his dying patients, were "the darkest years of my life."

Now Fauci is the public face of another dark struggle.

At his Regis talk, Fauci was asked if there was anything that kept him up at night. He responded that his days are usually so long that he always sleeps well. But there was, he said, an issue that worried him when he was awake, namely the emergence of a virus that attacks the lungs, similar to the one that killed millions during 1918 and 1919.

"I worry about a pandemic," he said last May. Now, less than a year later, his worries are a reality and he has emerged as the public face of the fight against coronavirus. He appears concerned yet unflappable.

"Right now, there is something he's trying to figure out. He enjoys the challenge," said Father Lahart.

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Editor's Note: A video from Regis High School of Fauci's visit can be seen at https://youtu.be/3hpWUciWKXg.

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Feuerherd writes for National Catholic Reporter, an independent biweekly newspaper based in Kansas City, Missouri.

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Papal academy says solidarity among ethical responses needed in pandemic

IMAGE: CNS photo/Marzio Toniolo, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has caught entire communities and nations off guard, and the best way to tackle this global crisis is together as a global family, the Pontifical Academy for Life said.

"An emergency like that of COVID-19 is overcome with, above all, the antibodies of solidarity," the academy said in a seven-page "note" published March 30 on its website, academyforlife.va.

With experts in the field of science and ethics, the papal academy wished to "contribute its own reflections" in order to foster "a renewed spirit that must nourish social relations and care for the person" during this pandemic, it said.

All 163 papal academicians were asked to take part, and the "Note on the COVID-19 Emergency" was the result of that consultation, the academy said in a news release. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, academy president, gave Pope Francis a copy of the text during a private meeting in the Apostolic Palace March 30.

"The pope confided in me two of his concerns: how to help right now, especially the weakest; and for the future, how to come out of this (crisis) strengthened in solidarity," including on a global level, the archbishop said in the written statement.

Titled, "Pandemic and Universal Brotherhood," the text highlights what ethical standards must prevail when dealing with the care and support of both individuals and communities in health care as well as more "existential" concerns that often go ignored in a world increasingly focused on individual rights, isolationist national interests and a flood of data divorced from the people it represents.

It also includes understanding how to talk about God in this moment of crisis, it said, because "We cannot interpret the sufferings that humanity is going through according to the crude scheme that establishes a correspondence between (doing wrong) against the divine and a 'sacred reprisal' undertaken by God."

The pandemic does not represent God's wrath, because the disease affects most frequently and tragically the weakest and most vulnerable -- the very people God loves and cares for the most, it said.

A full reading of sacred Scripture shows that "being on the side of life, just as God commands us, is made real through gestures of humanity for the other," gestures of love, care and support, it said.

Prayers, too, are not "magic formulas," but are a loving dialogue with God, expressing trust in him and learning to trust in humanity.

It is from prayer that people "gain the inner strength to exercise all our responsibility and make ourselves open to conversion, according to what reality makes us understand about how a more human coexistence is possible in our world," it said.

Solidarity and fraternity must be lived by everyone and in all fields, particularly in governance, scientific research and health care, it said.

Testing, protection and containment must be part of a "broad and deep search for the common good" in order to resist "a tendency to direct benefits toward privileged persons and a neglect of vulnerable persons according to citizenship, income, politics or age."

Even though hospitals and health care personnel are being faced with a tragic limit or shortage of resources, rationing must be avoided, the academy said.

Dramatic and painful decisions regarding treatment and care "cannot be based on differences in the value of a human life and the dignity of every person, which are always equal and priceless."

The best way to decide about the use of treatment is on "the basis of the needs of the patient, that is, the severity of his or her disease and need for care, and the evaluation of the clinical benefits that treatment can produce, based on his or her prognosis."

"Age cannot be considered the only, and automatic, criterion governing choice. Doing so could lead to a discriminatory attitude toward the elderly and the very weak," it added.

Rationing must be the last option, so that people always look for other alternatives, such as sharing resources, moving patients or seeking creative solutions to specific needs, "such as the use of the same ventilator for multiple patients. In any case, we must never abandon the sick person, even when there are no more treatments available."

The risk of a global epidemic requires global coordination in health care systems, which need to handle speedy diagnoses, rapid responses, adequate structures, proportionate containment measures and systems for keeping and sharing information, it said.

People rely on their leaders and authorities to be accurate points of reference and to "avoid the communication storms that have broken out -- infodemics -- with their inexact data and fragmentary reports," it said.

Politically, nations must take a broader view that goes beyond national interests because responses cannot be limited to what happens within one's own borders if they are to be effective, it said.

Viruses cannot be stopped, it said, "without effective cooperation and effective coordination, which addresses the inevitable political, commercial, ideological and relational resistances firmly."

And individuals must recognize every one of their actions has consequences -- on others and themselves, it said.

"Reckless or foolish behavior, which seemingly affects only ourselves, becomes a threat to all who are exposed to the risk of contagion, perhaps without even affecting the actor. In this way, we learn how everyone's safety depends on everyone else's," it said.

Individual freedom must be "collaborative for the common good," and people and nations must resist the tendency "an epidemic can nourish to see in the other an 'infectious' threat."

"We are living painfully a paradox that we would have never imagined: to survive the disease we must isolate ourselves from each other, but if we were ever to learn to live isolated from one another, we would quickly realize how essential for our lives is life with others."

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Editor's note: Full text of document in English: http://www.academyforlife.va/content/dam/pav/documenti%20pdf/2020/Nota%20Covid19/Note%20on%20the%20Covid-19%20emergency_ENG_.pdf

In Spanish: http://www.academyforlife.va/content/dam/pav/documenti%20pdf/2020/Nota%20Covid19/Nota%20sobre%20la%20emergencia%20Covid-19_ESP_.pdf

 

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Update: Virus may produce misery beyond disease to migrants, home countries

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lindsey Wasson, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Lack of jobs and economic disparity in Central America were already driving large numbers of migrants north before the coronavirus became a household word.

And now those who long have worked with migrants worry about the effects COVID-19 will cause on the already fragile economic systems of the migrants' home countries. They also worry about the environment the pandemic is creating for those migrants on the move and in new lands.  

Father Mauro Verzeletti, a Catholic priest who has for decades helped feed and shelter migrants in Central America, said he has received scant news about what migrants are currently facing after the government of Guatemala ordered a quarantine and he had to close the doors of the Casa del Migrante, one of the shelters he runs in Guatemala City. 

Father Verzeletti already was in a quarantine of sorts because the government forbid him from leaving the shelter after he received death threats in January for his work with migrants.

But he was able to see and hear stories from those who came through the shelter and had knowledge of what was going on before the quarantine was put in place.

"Now we're not receiving any news, we don't know how people are faring," he said in a March 26 telephone interview with Catholic News Service.

He's now sheltering in place with two migrant families and the superior of his order, the Scalabrinians, who was visiting when the national quarantine was put in place, shutting down flights.

But watching the news, he's learned of the scarcity of items in the stores. He worries about those who've lost their jobs, including those whose only means of making a living was by selling household items or produce on the streets in the "informal economy" that stocks the popular markets of Latin America. What will the economies and conditions of countries such as Guatemala look like after the coronavirus is over, he asked.

"Famine?" he said.

He also worries about those migrants who were making the journey when the crisis hit, about the conditions in detention they're facing in places such as the U.S., which he said already had a less than stellar record of treating detained migrants, including children and families, humanely.

Those worries are shared by groups in the U.S., including the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, Texas. In its March 16, Frontera Dispatch, a newsletter about conditions along the border region of El Paso, the organization voiced worries about the potential for a breakout of the virus in migrant camps that have formed just over the border as a result of the U.S. policy popularly called "Remain in Mexico."

Formally known as the Migrant Protection Controls, or MPP, the policy asks those seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico until a U.S. immigration court can adjudicate their case.

The organization worries about the medical conditions but also how a spread of the coronavirus in those communities can be used politically in an election year to further restrict asylum-seekers from seeking protection in the U.S.

"The prospect of the virus reaching migrant camps at the northern border is alarming," the organization said. "Camps like the one in Matamoros (across from Browsnville, Texas) house thousands of people and have no proper sanitation or infrastructure and limited access to medical supplies.

"Migrants living there (many in the MPP program) are mostly at risk from American volunteers, but if it (the virus) showed up at the border, the Trump administration would seize the opportunity to throw the blame on migrants and further restrict their rights."

Groups such as the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd argue that if there's a time to help those seeking shelter, it's now.

"The world is gripped in fear and crisis. Many of these men, women and children have journeyed for weeks and months. They have left unspeakable violence. Now is most certainly not the time to force them to huddle in unsafe conditions in Mexico as the coronavirus sweeps across our globe," said Lawrence E. Couch, the center's director.

"Closer to the American spirit can be found in the recent announcement that because of coronavirus, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) will stop its cruel rounding up of immigrants who pose no threat to the public," he added. "The Border Patrol should do the same and allow refugees to pass and find safety in the United States."

 

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Update: Across Europe, churches offer empty facilities to help fight COVID-19

IMAGE: CNS photo/Flavio Lo Scalzo, Reuters

By

ROME (CNS) -- In addition to expanding shelters for the homeless during Italy's COVID-19 lockdown, Catholic dioceses and parishes are offering rooms to medical personnel exhausted by long hours at work or who will not go home to avoid the danger of spreading the virus to their loved ones.

The Italian bishops' conference is posting, and updating daily, a list of actions and activities carried out by diocesan Caritas organizations.

The Diocese of Crema, in Italy's devastated Lombardy region, said March 28 it was preparing to host "35 Chinese doctors who will come to assist at the Crema hospital and a field hospital that will be built over the next five or six days" on the grounds of a former convent now owned by the diocese.

The diocese also has offered "25 places for health workers who cannot return to their families after work so as to not place their relatives at risk."

The Diocese of Bergamo, also in Lombardy, has set aside 50 single rooms with bathrooms in the diocesan seminary for doctors and nurses coming to help from outside the region.

In fact, the bishops' conference said, Crema and Bergamo are just two of the 23 dioceses that have informed the national civil protection service that they can provide accommodation for up to 500 medical personnel.

Another 18 dioceses have made more than 300 beds in 25 seminaries, convents, retreat houses or clinics available to the government for people who are in quarantine or recently released from the hospital, it said. And 21 dioceses, the statement said, have expanded the number of beds they offer to the homeless as well as expanding their normal operating hours to 24 hours a day, given that people are not supposed to go outside.

Across Europe, Catholic dioceses and religious orders are offering to turn church facilities into spaces needed for health care or housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The German Catholic news agency KNA reported the Archdiocese of Cologne is treating coronavirus patients flown in from Italy and has opened its seminary to provide food and showers for homeless people.

Catholic clinics in the archdiocese were providing urgently needed intensive care beds for six patients from Italy, Cologne Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki said. The archdiocese has 43 catholic hospitals with a total of 12,000 beds.

"It is an act of charity to provide fast and unbureaucratic help," he said. The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia arranged the transfer from northern Italy where hospitals are stretched beyond their limits in the crisis.

Archbishop Woelki also said starting March 30, homeless would be able to get a hot meal and take a shower at the seminary. He made the announcement in a service that was held in Cologne cathedral without a congregation and streamed online. He pointed out that the homeless were especially hard hit by the corona pandemic, KNA reported.

In Ukraine, Father Lubomyr Javorski, finance officer of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, acknowledged the pastoral role of chaplains, but said, "The church also has many property resources which can be used during the pandemic. These facilities can be converted into hospitals, but also made available to physicians far from their workplaces, and to people returning from abroad with nowhere to spend their quarantine."

Bishop Mario Iceta Gavicagogeascoa of Bilbao, Spain, said he, like other bishops, had been forced to close local churches, but was now preparing some for pandemic victims.

"We've responded to the appeal of civil authorities by making facilities and buildings available," Bishop Iceta told the Religion-Digital news agency March 25.

"The conversion of a religious congregation building here is already underway, and the authorities are studying how to prepare other diocesan properties," he said.

Bishop Iceta told Religion-Digital Catholic he was ready to resume his previous career as a doctor, if Pope Francis consented.

"The church, as Pope Francis says, is a field hospital -- isn't this a favorable occasion to deploy the services of this hospital?" said the 55-year-old bishop, who trained as a surgeon before his ordination and sits on Bilbao's Academy of Medical Sciences.

"I haven't practiced medicine for a long time and would need to catch up on current advances. But if it were necessary and there was no better solution, there's no doubt in my mind that I would offer to resume."

In Italy, TV channels showed San Giuseppe Church at Seriate being used as a depository for coffins, which were later gathered by military trucks for cremation as local authorities struggled with the scale of deaths.

In Germany, one southern diocese said it had opened a telephone hotline for needs ranging from shopping to child care, while Benedictine nuns in Bavaria said March 26 they were manufacturing 100 reusable respiratory masks daily for local hospitals.

In Portugal, dioceses offered seminary rooms and other facilities to health professionals and civil protection teams.

The Catholic Ecclesia news agency reported March 26 Portugal's Guarda Diocese had turned over its apostolic center for "emergency care," while the Jesuit order's Oficina technical college in Lisbon said it was producing visors with 3-D technology for local medical centers.

"The manufacture of visors immediately aroused interest from other sectors, such as firefighters, municipality officials and security forces," the school's director, Miguel Sa Carneiro, told Ecclesia. "Former students whose companies have this equipment are making it available, and we're creating a network of partnerships to will allow increased production."

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Pope offers Mass for those living in fear of pandemic

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis offered his daily morning Mass for those who find themselves living in fear of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.

"Let us pray today for the many people who cannot cope, who remain frightened by this pandemic. May the Lord help them to stand up, to react for the good of all society and the entire community," the pope said March 30 at the start of his livestreamed Mass.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's first reading and Gospel, which recalled the stories of two women -- one falsely accused and the other caught in the act of sin -- who faced death sentences.

The first reading from the Book of Daniel, recounted the story of Susanna, a just woman falsely accused of adultery by two corrupt judges. The Gospel reading from St. John, however, recalled a woman caught in the act of adultery and sentenced to be stoned by the doctors of the law who "were not corrupt, but hypocrites," the pope said.

"These women, one fell into the hands of hypocrites and the other into the hands of the corrupt; there was no way out," he said. "The first explicitly trusts God and the Lord intervened. The second, poor thing, knows that she is guilty, exposed before all the people. The Gospel doesn't say it, but surely she was praying inside, asking for some kind of help."

Nevertheless, the pope said that in both instances God intervened, and while he helped the hypocrites convert, he does not forgive the corrupt ones "simply because a corrupt person is incapable of asking for forgiveness."

Corrupt people "are sure of themselves, they destroy and continue to exploit people," the pope said. "They put themselves in the place of God."

Pope Francis said that like the witnesses in both cases, who were able to praise God and discover his mercy, Christians should also reflect on their own lives and how the Lord has intervened.

"Each one of us has our own story, our own sins. And if you don't remember them, think about it, you'll find it. Thank God if you find them because, if not, you are corrupt," the pope said. "Let us look to the Lord who does justice but is also very merciful. Let us not be ashamed of being in the church; let us be ashamed of being sinners."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Pope joins U.N. call for immediate global cease-fire

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Saying conflicts can never be resolved with war, Pope Francis added his support to a U.N. appeal for a global cease-fire amid the worldwide threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"May our joint effort against the pandemic lead everyone to recognize our need to strengthen our brotherly and sisterly ties as members of one human family," the pope said March 29, after praying the Angelus in the library of the Apostolic Palace.

"In particular, may it inspire national leaders and other concerned parties to a renewed commitment to overcome rivalries. Conflicts are not resolved through war. It is necessary to overcome antagonism and differences through dialogue and a constructive search for peace," he said.

The pope said he was adding his voice to support the appeal by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for an immediate global cease-fire amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pope said he was inviting everyone to take part by "ceasing all forms of military hostilities, promoting the creation of corridors for humanitarian aid, being open to diplomacy and offering attention to those who find themselves in situations of great vulnerability."

In his appeal March 23, Guterres had said, "The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war."

"Our world faces a common enemy -- COVID-19. The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly," he said in a statement from New York.

However, he said, armed conflicts continue to rage around the world.

"In war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed. Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted. Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable," he said.

This is why, Guterres said, he was calling for an immediate global cease-fire.

"It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives," he said.

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Pope calls for heartfelt compassion for those impacted by COVID-19

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With so much suffering associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis asked people to reflect on whether they were feeling real compassion and sorrow for what was happening.

It is one thing to be actively trying to help or do some good, but people also must be capable of opening their hearts and being moved to tears for others, he said in his homily March 29.

Celebrating morning Mass in the chapel at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope first prayed for the "many people who are crying: people who are isolated, in quarantine; the elderly who are alone; people who have recovered; people undergoing treatment; parents who, because there is no income, are not able to feed their kids."

"So many people weep and we, too, from our heart, we accompany them. It wouldn't hurt us to weep a little as our Lord wept for his people," the pope said at the start of Mass, which the Vatican has been livestreaming online the past three weeks.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. John, which talked about Jesus' reaction to the death of his friend, Lazarus, and the sorrow he and his friend's family experienced.

Jesus wept at Lazarus' tomb, but he also ordered the tomb be opened and for Lazarus to come out -- resurrected from the dead.

"Jesus weeps with so much tenderness! He weeps from the heart, weeps with love, he weeps with those who weep," the pope said.

"Today," he said, "in a world that is suffering so much -- so many people who are suffering the consequences of this pandemic -- I ask myself, am I able to weep as Jesus certainly did and is doing now? Is my heart like Jesus'?"

One's heart can still be "too hard even if I am able to talk, do good things, help," but one's heart is not involved because "I am not able to weep," he said.

The pope prayed for the grace of being able to weep with Jesus and for his people who are suffering, and that the day be a "Sunday of tears" for everyone.

Later in the day, after reciting the Sunday Angelus, the pope said he was praying especially for those who were unable or not allowed to have the required distancing or isolation needed to keep them safe during the pandemic, like those living in homes for the elderly or prisons.

Prisoners face potential tragedy because so many places of detention are overcrowded, he said, citing a March 25 warning from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Pope Francis asked that authorities be aware of "this serious problem and take necessary measures to avoid further tragedies."

Before praying the Angelus, the pope reflected more deeply on the day's Gospel reading and Jesus' command to "take away the stone" from Lazarus' tomb so his friend could emerge, resurrected.

With this gesture, the pope said, Jesus demonstrates how he is the Lord of life, as he told Lazarus' sister, Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die."

Jesus urges people to have faith, even in the midst of sorrow and mourning, even when it seems death has won.

"Take away the stone from your heart! Let the Word of God bring life back to where there is death," the pope said in his address, broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace.

"We are called to take away the stones of everything that smells of death, for example: living the faith with hypocrisy is death; destructive criticism of others is death; offenses and calumny are death; marginalizing the poor is death," he said.

God wants people to take away these impediments so that life, in Christ, can spring forth once again, he said.

At the end of his address, the pope went to the window of the library to bless the city. St. Peter's Square remained empty because of the nationwide lockdown.

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Priority on economy over people may lead to 'viral genocide,' pope warns

IMAGE: CNS photo/Juan Medina, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Countries fighting the coronavirus pandemic could face deadly consequences if they focus on protecting their economies more than their own people, Pope Francis said.

In a handwritten letter sent March 28 to Argentine Judge Roberto Andres Gallardo, president of the Pan-American Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine, the pope said that some governments that have imposed lockdown measures "show the priority of their decisions: people first."

"This is important because we all know that defending the people implies an economic setback," he said in the letter, which was published March 29 by the Argentine newspaper La Nacion.

"It would be sad if they opted for the opposite, which would lead to the death of many people, something like a viral genocide," the pope wrote.

In his letter, the pope said that while he was concerned about the global spread of the COVID-19 virus, he also was "edified by the reaction of so many people -- doctors, nurses, volunteers, religious men and women and priests -- who risk their lives to heal and defend healthy people from contagion."

Although lockdown measures implemented in many countries may "annoy" those forced to comply, the pope said that people have realized that it is for the sake of the common good.

In the long run, he said, "most people accept them and move forward with a positive attitude."

Pope Francis also told Gallardo that he recently met with members of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development to discuss "the present situation and what comes after" because "preparing for the aftermath is important."

"We are already seeing some consequences that need to be confronted," the pope said. "Hunger -- especially for people without a steady job (odd jobs, etc.) -- violence and the appearance of loan sharks," who are "the real plague of the social future; (they are) dehumanized criminals."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]