By Francesca Merlo
To help contain the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, Churches around the world are doing all they can to avoid large gatherings while still allowing the faithful to pray together, even if from a physical distance.
Pope Francis provided the first example when he announced on March 7th that he would not be appearing from the window of his study to recite his Sunday Angelus with pilgrims in St Peter’s Square.
Instead, he gave his catechesis from the Library of the Apostolic Palace, and live-streamed it to the world.
Others follow Pope Francis' example
Shortly after, Churches all across Italy, the worst-hit European Nation, cancelled all public Masses. As the virus spread, the Catholic Church in France did the same.
In Spain, where the government is closely mirroring Italy’s prevention measures, Bishops have responded to the crisis by publishing links to television channels and radio stations on which Masses can be attended in an attempt to keep people at home.
St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland have been suspended and church’s around the country will limit themselves to sounding their bells to honour and celebrate their patron Saint.
Austria, Germany, Belgium and several other EU countries have also suspended all their Sunday Masses, with the Dutch Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam holding a nine-day novena to pray for an end to the pandemic.
Latin America's response
In Latin America, Puerto Rico announced the closure of its churches on March 15th.
That was just one day after Peru’s government declared a state of emergency, putting a stop to all religious services with a congregation.
But many Peruvian dioceses had already implemented stringent measures.
A priest from the capital, Lima, was the first person to be hospitalised with Covid-19, so the Bishops acted quickly to avoid further contagion.
In Nicaragua, the Bishops released a statement expressing their concern over what they called the country’s “weak healthcare system”.
They urged the Nicaraguan faithful not to take part physically in liturgical celebrations but rather to do so from their homes, through the media.
So the Church around the world – from Pope Francis on down the hierarchy – is proclaiming the same message to halt the spread of the coronavirus: nourish your spiritual life with Mass and prayer, but do it from home.