THE COVID-19 coronavirus has spread across Europe and the United States of America. The Italian bishops, in cooperation with the Italian government, announced the suspension of public Masses after the Sunday Mass on March 8 until April 3. Inside the Vatican, St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica have been closed to visitors. A number of services provided by Holy See departments were also adjusted as part of the control measures against the outbreak.
On March 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global pandemic. This means that it is spreading over various places around the world and all governments and researchers should work in mutual cooperation and coordinate to combat the pandemic.
It has been almost three months since the onset of the outbreak in Wuhan, China. Different governments have implemented such measures as forced quarantine or closing borders to people coming from affected regions. The outbreak has sown fear and panic among people.
However, as a commentary posted on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said, do not panic but rather take care of ourselves. In the article, Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, said that on a personal level, while everyone must stay alert to the outbreak and follow safety measures, we should not over-panic; on the institutional level, the authorities must provide appropriate, timely and true information to help to avoid fake news because it can cause confusion or even panic among people. He also urged governments and other institutions not to place political expediencies or profit above the common good and the safety of the people.
This ethical request is still relevant.
Bishop Pabillo also noted that people always greet each other by saying “take care” and while this means we should take good care of ourselves, we must also learn to “give care” to others.
Caring for each other is the first great healer. This not only gives encouragement to the recipients but also allows the givers to experience the power of love.
In Hong Kong, some parishes and Catholic organisations have been distributing protective medical and hygiene products or foodstuffs to low income people. Earlier, the alumni of a Catholic secondary school in Tsz Wan Shan launched a donation campaign. One of the young participants said that although he had limited supply of protective products, he was very happy to share with those who had a greater need.
The Vatican has also had to adjust its services. For example, while it seeks to continue to keep its showers and toilets open for the poor, it has to observe health guidelines by limiting the number of people for each time slot and the social distance between users. As the Office of Papal Charities said, they need to tell the street sleepers: you are not facing the Covid-19 outbreak crisis alone and, if there is a need, we will help you.
At the time editorial was written, the outbreak in Hong Kong and many countries was still not under control. People seem to be in a barren land.
However, as Pope Francis said in his March 8 Angelus, the faithful must live this difficult moment with the power of faith, the certainty of hope and the fervour of charity. “The Lenten season helps us to give an evangelical meaning to everything, even at this moment of trial and suffering,” he said. SE