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Update: Papal preacher: Pandemic rouses world from 'delusion of omnipotence'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Andrew Medichini, pool via Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The coronavirus is not some form of divine punishment but a tragic event that, like all suffering in one's life, is used by God to awaken humanity, said the preacher of the papal household.

"The coronavirus pandemic has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to: the delusion of omnipotence," Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said during an April 10 service commemorating Christ's death on the cross.

"It took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal, that military power and technology are not sufficient to save us," he said.

Pope Francis presided over the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica, which was nearly empty and completely silent.

After processing into the sacred edifice in silence, the 83-year-old pope, aided by two assistants, got down onto his knees and lay prostrate on the floor before the altar in a sign of adoration and penance.

Hands clasped under him and eyes closed, the pope silently prayed before a crucifix draped in red.

During the liturgy, the pope and a small congregation of nearly a dozen people stood as three deacons read the account of the Passion from the Gospel of St. John. As is customary, the papal household's preacher gave the homily.

Taking preventative measures into account, the pope was the only one who took part in venerating the cross. After reverently kissing the cross, he stood behind it while those participating kneeled in adoration.

Father Cantalamessa said the Gospel reading of Christ's death "is the account of the objectively greatest evil committed on earth." While Jesus' Passion can be looked at from various perspectives, "the cross is better understood by its effects than by its causes."

Christ's cross, he said, changed the meaning of pain and human suffering, in that both are no longer viewed as divine punishment or a curse. Instead, suffering "was redeemed at its root when the Son of God took it upon himself."

"What is the surest proof that the drink someone offers you is not poisoned?" Father Cantalamessa asked. "It is if that person drinks from the same cup before you do. This is what God has done: On the cross he drank, in front of the whole world, the cup of pain down to its dregs. This is how he showed us it is not poisoned, but that there is a pearl at the bottom of it."

While it can be a challenge to avoid the negative effects of the virus, including the death and illness of loved ones, he continued, the current pandemic should be viewed more by its positive effects rather than its causes.

Another positive effect of the pandemic is the feeling of solidarity and unity around the world that has lessened the need for war and armed conflict.

Father Cantalamessa said it was important to not allow "so much pain, so many deaths, and so much heroic engagement on the part of health workers to have been in vain."

"Returning to the way things were is the 'recession' we should fear the most," he said. "Let us devote the unlimited resources committed to weapons to the goals that we now realize are most necessary and urgent: health, hygiene, food, the fight against poverty, stewardship of creation. Let us leave to the next generation a world poorer in goods and money, if need be, but richer in its humanity."

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Update: Masses, Stations of the Cross, prayers in livestreams, on YouTube

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the coronavirus persists in the United States, the number of Masses, Stations of the Cross, meditations and other devotions being livestreamed by U.S. dioceses, parishes and other groups around country continues to grow, especially during this Holy Week.

Churches remain closed to public celebration of the Mass, including the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, the nation's preeminent Marian shrine, which is normally open to visitors 365 days of the year. It invites all Catholics to join its celebration of the Holy Triduum virtually via its website: https://www.nationalshrine.org/blog/join-us-virtually-as-we-observe-palm-sunday-holy-week-easter.

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City also has been livestreaming Holy Week liturgies, https://saintpatrickscathedral.org/live.

The homepage of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, https://www.ajcunet.edu, has links to livestreamed Masses at Jesuit college and university churches and chapels for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

Among other Catholic universities and colleges offering virtual Triduum services is Villanova University in Pennsylvania, which will livestream Easter Sunday Mass via this link: https://www1.villanova.edu/content/university/president.html. (Scroll down to Holy Week Mass).

Via its website, www.ncronline.org, National Catholic Reporter, an independent biweekly newspaper based in Kansas City, Missouri, is sharing a liturgy resource for an Easter Triduum virtual celebration put together by board member and composer Dan Schutte. The direct link to this is: https://www.danschuttemusic.com/wordpressstore/easter-triduum. The NCR site has articles on the Triduum by Schutte.

An online database called "With Your Spirit" -- https://withyourspirit.org -- lists livestreamed Masses around the country and allows Catholics to add Masses and other online services they know of to the database, which has been compiled by Michael Bayer, director of evangelization and adult formation at St. Clement Catholic Church in Chicago, with the help of many volunteers.

Here's a sampling of other online liturgies and devotions around the country:

Eastern Time Zone

Archdiocese of Philadelphia, at least 65 parishes to date are livestreaming daily and Sunday Masses plus other devotions (CatholicPhilly.com is posting a running list): https://catholicphilly.com/2020/03/news/local-news/find-a-mass-livestreamed.

Diocese of Manchester, N.H.: https://www.catholicnh.org/community/outreach/health-care/coronavirus/livestreamed-masses.

Diocese of Portland, Maine: https://portlanddiocese.org/live-streamed-masses

Archdiocese of Boston's CatholicTV Network has daily Mass in English and Spanish (Viewers can watch at any time): https://www.watchthemass.com

Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, offers Mass in seven languages, both live and recorded:
https://dioceseofbrooklyn.org/masses

Diocese of Rochester, New York, live streaming events from Stations of the Cross, Sunday Masses, Palm Sunday, chrism Mass and more: https://www.youtube.com/user/CatholicCourier; viewers also can find livestreams here: https://catholiccourier.com

Ukrainian Catholic Diocese of Stamford, Connecticut: http://www.stamforddio.org

Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh Divine Liturgies: https://www.archpitt.org/divine-liturgies-online

Daily Mass in Armenian rite: http://www.telepacearmenia.it

Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Mass in English and Spanish: http://www.catholiccincinnati.org

Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, daily and Sunday Masses: http://www.columbuscatholic.org

St. Augustine's, Mother Church of African American Catholics in Washington:
https://saintaugustine-dc.org/live-streamed-mass

Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina: http://catholicnewsherald.com/88-news/fp/5651-massonline

Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, resources: https://dioceseofraleigh.org/news/online-spiritual-resources

Diocese of Orlando, Florida: https://www.facebook.com/orlandodiocese

Archdiocese of Miami, online Masses in these languages:
English: https://www.facebook.com/BasilicaSMSS
Spanish: https://www.facebook.com/icchialeah
Creole: 9 a.m. Sunday: https://www.facebook.com/LiveSaintClement

Archdiocese of Detroit:
https://livestream.com/accounts/19963606/events/9038662

Chaldean Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle, Southfield, Michigan:
Live streaming Sunday Masses: www.chaldeanchurch.org/live.
Live streaming daily Masses on our Facebook and YouTube channels. YouTube.com/chaldeandiocese

Central Time Zone

Archdiocese of Milwaukee: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrw_JySXFU94eYPgE_ILokQ

St. John's Abbey, livestream daily 5 p.m.; Saturday: 10:30 a.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m.: https://saintjohnsabbey.org/live

Archdiocese of Chicago Sunday Masses in English, Spanish and Polish (anytime)
https://radiotv.archchicago.org/television/broadcast-masses

Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, Mass in English, Spanish, also rosary
https://dbqarch.org/live-broadcasts

Archdiocese of St. Louis: https://www.archstl.org/live-streamed-and-televised-masses

Archdiocese of New Orleans: https://nolacatholic.org/news/taking-mass-online

Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana: https://www.htdiocese.org/coronavirus-masses

Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, English and Spanish: https://www.archgh.org/onlinemass
Mass in Vietnamese: https://lavangchurch.org

Diocese of Dallas, live and recorded, English and Spanish: https://www.cathdal.org.

Mountain Time Zone

Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Mass in English and Spanish, http://dioceseofcheyenne.org/covid19/

Archdiocese of Denver: https://archden.org/coronavirus/locallivestream

Diocese of Salt Lake City: https://www.dioslc.org

Diocese of Phoenix: https://dphx.org/stayhealthy/tvmass

Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, livestream of Sunday Mass with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades: https://fwsbhealth.weebly.com/mass.html (He also will lead Stations of the Cross April 3)

Pacific Time Zone

Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, Sunday Mass 11 a.m.: https://www.facebook.com/archdpdx

Archdiocese of Seattle, daily Mass 8:30 a.m.: https://vimeo.com/archdioceseofseattle

Archdiocese of San Francisco: https://www.sfarchdiocese.org/livestreams

Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 7 a.m. Spanish; 10 a.m. English: https://lacatholics.org/mass-for-the-homebound

Diocese of San Diego Diocese, English, Spanish, Vietnamese: https://www.sdcatholic.org/find-a-parish/on-line-sunday-mass/#english_mass

Alaska Time Zone

Diocese of Fairbanks, English and Spanish: http://dioceseoffairbanks.org/joomla/index.php/online-mass

Hawaii Time Zone

Diocese of Honolulu: https://hawaiicatholictv.com

Sign Language

https://www.facebook.com/ICDACanadianSection
https://bostondeafcatholic.org


Other Devotions

Stations of the Cross by Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, (anytime, recorded meditations):
https://www.dolr.org/stations-of-the-cross

Meditation/Daily Readings:
https://giveusthisday.org/Digital
https://us.magnificat.net/free
http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm

Oregon Catholic Press:
Resources for parishes: https://www.ocp.org/en-us/blog/entry/resources-for-parishes
Resources for home: https://www.ocp.org/en-us/blog/entry/resources-from-home

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COVID-19 worries loom on many fronts in rural America

IMAGE: CNS/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Making a living as a farmer in the United States has never been easy. But the coronavirus pandemic has added new layers of complexity for farmers and the people living in the small towns that dot the rural landscape.

The issues have to do with planting, harvesting, production, health, prices and housing -- all of which have to do with people.

"In Ohio, we were hearing from one of our chapter leaders who was concerned about farmers," said James Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life. "Because they do a lot of work themselves, if they get sick, who's going to help them?"

In Catholic Rural Life's chapter in Owensboro, Kentucky, "they were concerned about the farmworkers. They weren't getting enough farmworkers. Usually they get a lot of migrant workers coming from Mexico. And that's not happening," Ennis said. "What's going to happen if those workers can't come into their particular area of Kentucky?"

That's a serious issue, "especially when consulates and embassies were starting to reduce services," said Mike Stranz, vice president for advocacy at the National Farmers Union. Farmers relying on immigrant labor to harvest crops are "in a tough spot," he agreed. "We've talked with the State Department. They have become more flexible about immigrant workers changing employers while they're here."

"We're definitely watching the issues of farmers, but now is the time that crops need to be planted and crops need to be harvested," said Lorette Picciano, executive director of Rural Coalition, which focuses on immigrant farmworkers and minority farmers.

Social distancing is a dream to farmworkers. Picciano spoke of workers from Mexico who line up at a bridge at 1 a.m. each night to be scrutinized by U.S. immigration authorities in Texas in time to be packed into a van that leaves at 6 a.m. to drive them to farm fields. In some migrant communities in Florida, she added, 15 will sleep in a building that has just one or two bathrooms.

"All the relief that's in the stimulus package cannot go to someone who is not documented," Picciano told Catholic News Service, adding farmers are "not necessarily getting tested" and "not getting payments."

"I'm a Catholic, and how can we make sure our government does its duty to supply Americans with what they need during this emergency?" she asked. "It's devastating, and there's a lot of work to do."

The health of farmworkers is precarious. Picciano cited the case of a date-packing plant in California's Coachella Valley where "the COVID-19 was already found in one worker. They cleaned everything, then they found that eight more workers were infected," she said.

Ennis was told by a Catholic Rural Life chapter in Davenport, Iowa, that a Tyson pork processing plant in nearby Columbus Junction suspended operations after some workers there were found to have the coronavirus. "That was really scary. It's a big deal when it's 1,400 jobs and they decide they're going to suspend operations," he said. "That was disconcerting and a big deal -- a really big deal. That's impacted that community very significantly."

Dairy and livestock markets "have seen significant impacts already," Stranz said. "It's not a matter of supplies, it's a matter of shipping and demand. It's how people are eating. It would normally take decades (to alter consumer preferences), but it's happened in a matter of weeks."

He added, "Dairy is particularly hard hit by this. Other than getting rid of cows, you can't slow production. They need to be milked three times a day. ... The price of dairy futures went down 40% in two weeks, and those prices were low to begin with. We're seeing a lot of threats to dairy farmers and farmers who were already hurting."

One case in point: school lunches and breakfasts. "That demand has dried up, and there's been a glut of milk in that side of the market, where retail food and milk consumption is probably up," Stranz said. "It's tough to flip a switch and get milk flowing through a different channel. They can't all of a sudden go from getting lunch milk and it all going to supermarkets."

Nebraska was one of a dwindling number of states -- there were just eight as of April 9 -- that did not have a blanket stay-at-home order, according to Sandra Renner, farm and community director of the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons. But the closure of schools by most districts presents two other problems.

"These kids rely on two meals a day from the school system. They're not going to be doing much learning from their computer" if they're hungry, Renner said. That is, if the computer can access the internet. "I think it's a little trickier to think about e-learning, because broadband is limited here and in many rural places," she said from her home in West Point, Nebraska. "The school has to get a little bit of sense of what would work here."

Despite long-held assumptions about what rural America looks like, "Nebraska has had a lot of changing demographics in the last 30 years," Renner added. "You wouldn't think of Nebraska as a melting pot, but 87 languages are spoken across the state. But most of the information being put out by state agencies initially was in English, and in some cases still only in English."

And, to ward off the coronavirus-induced economic catastrophe for some Nebraskans, the center launched an emergency loan fund, she noted. "We're also a lender so we're taking care of that," Renner said. "It's an all-hands-on-deck approach to get these emergency loans processed in a timely fashion."

Ennis wryly noted how some Kansas farmers have long seen themselves as "socially isolated," but that now even the simple pleasure of sitting in a cafe for a cup of coffee and a pastry is now denied them. Catholic Rural Life, he said, was planning a livestream for May 15 -- the feast of St. Isidore, patron saint of farmers -- to pray "for the protection of farmworkers and farmers and food-processing workers in rural communities."

He's been following some rural priests' own livestreaming. "For some priests, they've opened up their lives more to parishioners, where they don't usually share night prayer with their parishioners," Ennis said. "It's powerful. I'm just seeing all the comments on the side, the appreciation for what Father's doing in this regard. ... It's phenomenal. It's creative."

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Gomez: On Good Friday, in pandemic, Jesus asks us to trust in Sacred Heart

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Standing at the foot of the cross on Good Friday with Mary, we look upon her crucified Son, asking God, "Why did he have to die? Couldn't there be some other way?" Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said in a homily April 10.

"Today we are also asking God: Why this coronavirus? Why have you allowed this disease and death to descend on our world?" he continued. "We know that Jesus on the cross is the only answer. In the heart of Christ -- wounded by the soldier's spear, pierced by our sins -- we see how much God loves the world. We see how precious we are in our Father's eyes."

The homily by Archbishop Gomez, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was part of a national prayer service he led U.S. Catholics in from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles as "a special moment of unity" at a time when the nation's churches are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The English- and Spanish-language service included Scripture readings and his homily, followed by the recitation of the Litany of the Sacred Heart. The service was livestreamed at https://lacatholics.org and on the USCCB Facebook page, www.facebook.com/usccb.

The cathedral was empty except for Archbishop Gomez, three priests, a lector and a musician playing a keyboard and singing hymns.

"As we stand today at the foot of his cross, in the midst of this pandemic, Jesus is calling us to trust in his Sacred Heart," the archbishop said in his homily. "Let's pray often to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: 'Jesus, I trust in you! Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, en ti confio.'"

The faithful know that God will provide, he continued. "He has a plan of love for his creation, a plan of goodness and mercy for every nation and for every heart.

"Jesus does not die for no reason. Good Friday is 'good' because it opens the way to Easter Sunday. God gave his own Son for us. So, we know that he will deliver us from this evil of the coronavirus. The cross shows us that his love for us is stronger than death."

As Catholics, we are living in "the moment of Christian witness," he said. Jesus has opened up his heart for all, given his life "out of love for us" and now calls "us to entrust our lives to him -- our whole heart, our whole mind; all our feelings and thoughts, our words and actions."

Right now Jesus is inviting everyone in the church "to take up our cross and to follow him along the path of humble love, the path of reverence for God and,service to our neighbors," Archbishop Gomez said. "God's mercies are not spent! Faith, hope, and charity have not died!"

Faith, hope and charity, he continued, are being witnessed by us all "in a beautiful way every day during this pandemic -- in our hospitals and homes, in our parishes and ministries, in every quiet, unseen act of self-sacrifice and service in our families and communities."

God wants all of his people to learn in this time of worldwide crisis "that we are one family, one body united in the blood and water that flows from the heart of Christ, joined together in a beautiful, supernatural solidarity of compassion," he said.

Archbishop Gomez urged the faithful to "love one another, joining our sufferings to the heart of Christ, open for us on the cross. Let us sacrifice for one another, take care of one another, forgive one another."

He repeated: "Jesus, I trust in you! Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, en ti confio.'"

He prayed Mary will intercede for us "in her sorrows today."

"May she help us to be meek and humble of heart, and to persevere in this Good Friday of disease and death, to hasten to the Easter morning of the Resurrection," he concluded.

With special permission received from the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See, a plenary indulgence was available for those who joined Archbishop Gomez on Good Friday in praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart.

A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due to sins and may be applied to oneself or to the souls of the deceased (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1471).

To receive this indulgence, the faithful were asked to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart on Good Friday; and to be truly repentant of any sins they have committed and receive the sacrament of reconciliation (at the earliest opportunity); and pray for Pope Francis' intentions.

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Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

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Update: Pope offers blessing for Holy Saturday online showing of Shroud of Turin

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Calling the Shroud of Turin an "icon of the Lord Jesus crucified, died and risen," Pope Francis thanked the archbishop of Turin for deciding to offer a special online exposition of the shroud Holy Saturday, April 11, to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Jesus gives us the strength to face every trial with faith, hope and love in the certainty that the Father always hears his children who cry out to him and saves them," the pope said in a message dated April 9 and sent to Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin.

Archbishop Nosiglia was to lead a liturgy of prayer and contemplation before the shroud at 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. EDT).

The prayer service was to be livestreamed along with live images of the 14-foot-by-4-foot shroud, which has a full-length photonegative image of a man, front and back, bearing signs of wounds that correspond to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in his passion and death.

The livestream was to be available on the official website for the shroud -- www.sindone.org -- as well as on the official Facebook page of the archdiocese (@diocesitorino) and the Facebook page of its youth ministry office (@upgtorino) and the youth ministry office's YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/upgtorino).

In his message to the archbishop, Pope Francis said he deeply appreciated the archbishop's decision to have an extraordinary exposition of the shroud to "meet the requests of the faithful people of God, who are so harshly tried by the coronavirus pandemic."

"I, too, join in your prayer," the pope said. "In the face of the Man of the Shroud we also see the faces of many sick brothers and sisters, especially those most alone and least cared for, but also all the victims of wars and violence, slavery and persecution."

Offering his blessing to all who watch the exposition online or on television, Pope Francis said, "we live these days in intimate union with the passion of Christ so as to experience the grace and joy of the resurrection."

 

 

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'Coping with isolation during the coronavirus'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By

This is one of a series of pastoral and personal reflections on living in this time of pandemic. It was written by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, as his weekly column published April 1 in The Tablet, the diocesan newspaper, with the headline "Coping with isolation during the coronavirus." This is part of an occasional series of reflections CNS will have from some U.S. Catholic bishops.

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The old saying that an idle mind is the devil's workshop is so true. In times of idleness, we accomplish little, and we are more vulnerable to life's usual temptations. Our own personal laziness and any other faults we have seem to be exaggerated during times of idleness, and when we are not sure of what to do with ourselves.

How can we cope with this idleness during this period of confinement due to the coronavirus pandemic? I offer you some suggestions that I am following myself. Last week I offered some spiritual guidance and suggestions to you, and I thought that perhaps this week, these practical suggestions may be of assistance to you.

How can we live in close confinement with our dearest family members? It is not always easy to do; however, we need to find ways to cope, especially for the school-aged children of our family.

Home schooling is now a necessity. Setting aside time to assist children with their lessons, which now have been communicated to them through their Chromebooks or iPads, is a priority. In addition to their studies, children need some time for recreation.

As difficult as it may be in the home, where many people in this city live in apartments, there are many ways for recreation besides TV and computer games, which need to be monitored carefully; puzzles, board games, or perhaps even setting aside time for reading a book are a good idea. Since families are together, we need to do more things together, for example, preparing meals, cleaning up after meals, and any household chores that can be turned into some type of fun game if possible.

Family prayer, as I suggested in my column of last week, is also very important. This opportunity gives families time for real family discussion of important issues such as: What is a pandemic and why do we see that we cannot protect ourselves from this great health calamity. Another problem is that of evil itself. Why do people die? Does God somehow inflict punishment upon us? Of course, this will take some reading on the part of the adults in the family, so that they might have some basis on how to explain these things to children.

In an old column I wrote in 2010 on the Haitian earthquake, I wrote on the problem of evil, using the riddle of Epicurus:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent.

Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent.

Is He both able and willing?

Then whence cometh evil?

Is He neither able nor willing?

Then why call Him God?

His riddle gives no answer in the secular world, but it does give us an indication that the problem of evil is one only we can solve by looking at the cross of Jesus Christ who suffered and died for our salvation. Evil is only conquered by the suffering that is willingly given back to God himself.

For those of you who live alone, keeping busy is key to prevent sinking into a depression, which will not be good for anything or anyone. Perhaps this may be a time for early spring cleaning. Getting at those closets, drawers and stacked up papers that we are loath to deal with might be a way to keep our minds occupied. We could also go through our old tax returns as we prepare our new taxes for this year, which by the way, now are due on July 15, 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic. When going through old tax records, it is a good idea to set the old ones aside for shredding. We are told that we should only keep our returns for seven to 10 years. Also, with old financial records, checking accounts or anything that we do not really need, this may be a time to go through these old records and put them aside to be properly disposed of when we can.

Little by little, each day we need to find things to keep us busy. All the things we are loath to do are perhaps the best things that we can do to keep us busy at this time. But we do these with recognition that we are doing a Lenten penance at the same time.

In general, reading good books, some educational television, limiting our news time, since it is usually bad news, although we must keep abreast of what is happening, and perhaps more spiritual TV as was recommended in my column last week may be a good way to keep our minds occupied.

Indeed, we are putting out into the deep by living with ourselves and with our family in a new way. It is important that we use this golden opportunity to come closer to one another and not separate ourselves from one another. Social isolation is necessary these days to flatten the curve of the pandemic, but not for our families. It is a great time to catch up with our friends and relatives that we have not talked to in a long time, by telephone or social media which are available to us.

We must come to love and support one another more and more. We must make the best of this opportunity that has been given to us. Be assured of my prayers for you as together we face the coronavirus pandemic.

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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 cns@catholicnews.com.

Nigerian bishops: All church hospitals can be used for COVID-19 patients

IMAGE: CNS photo/Temilade Adelaja, Reuters

By Peter Ajayi Dada

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- Nigeria's Catholic hospitals and clinics can all be used to treat COVID-19 patients, the country's bishops told the presidential task team set up to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The 435 hospitals and clinics in Nigeria's dioceses and archdioceses will be made available along with other services that may be needed, a bishops' delegation, led by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja, told government representatives in the capital, Abuja.

On behalf of Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of Benin City, president of the Nigerian bishops' conference, Archbishop Kaigama gave the addresses of all Catholic health facilities to task team leaders at the April 8 meeting.

Dr. Emmanuel Okechukwum, who heads up the bishops' health department, will liaise between the team and the church's hospitals and clinics.

The church has the structures, track records and the reach to be able to help in the government's efforts to treat patients and curb the virus' spread in the West African country, Archbishop Kaigama said.

Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government, thanked the bishops and appealed to church leaders to disseminate information on prevention through personal hygiene and to urge compliance with government directives on staying at home and social distancing.

According to World Health Organization figures April 9, Nigeria has 276 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with six deaths.

A two-week lockdown on Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria's commercial hub with a population of 20 million people, began April 1.

The restrictions ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari also cover Ogun state, next to Lagos.

 

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Good Friday prayer offers U.S. Catholics 'moment of unity' amid pandemic

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Hanna, Reuters

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- When Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, leads U.S. Catholics in prayer on Good Friday, it will be "a special moment of unity" at a time when the nation's churches are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Archbishop Gomez is scheduled to lead Catholics in praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart at noon (EDT) April 10 from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. The bilingual service will include Scripture readings and a short homily by Archbishop Gomez, followed by the recitation of the litany.

A livestream will be available on the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' website, www.lacatholics.org, and on the USCCB Facebook page, www.facebook.com/usccb. The text of Litany of the Sacred Heart can be found in English and Spanish on the Los Angeles archdiocesan website.

"I remember learning, when I was a kid, that beautiful aspiration: 'Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you,'" Archbishop Gomez told Angelus, the online news outlet of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "I think it might be beautiful that all of us, in this challenging time, together, go to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, finding peace, and understanding that we have to love one another as Jesus loves us."

An April 2 USCCB news release announcing the national prayer said: "Praying together as a nation, the archbishop asks that we seek healing for all who are unwell, wisdom for those whose work is halting the spread of coronavirus, and strength for all God's children."

Additionally, with special permission received from the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See, a plenary indulgence is available for those who join Archbishop Gomez in praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart on Good Friday.

A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due to sins and may be applied to oneself or to the souls of the deceased (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1471).

To receive this indulgence, the faithful would need to: pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart on Good Friday; be truly repentant of any sins they have committed and receive the sacrament of reconciliation (at the earliest opportunity); and pray for Pope Francis' intentions.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus became popular after St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th-century nun, received a series of visions from Jesus. He told her that he wanted to show humanity his love for them by encouraging a devotion to "the heart that so loved mankind."

Many refused to believe St. Margaret's account of her visions, but her spiritual director, St. Claude de la Colombiere, kept a record of what she had seen. Eventually, the church reviewed these accounts, but it was not until 1899 that Pope Leo XIII approved the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for public use.

The litany begins, as do others approved by the church, with petitions to the three persons of the Holy Trinity. It contains 33 invocations to the Heart of Jesus, with the response, "Have mercy on us," and closes with the prayer to the Lamb of God.

The image of Christ's heart pierced with thorns, but still burning with love, is widely associated with this devotion.

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Contributing to this story was the Angelus, the online news outlet of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

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Holy Week at home: Author offers ideas for a meaningful Triduum

IMAGE: CNS/Nancy Wiechec

By Maria Wiering

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- It's a Holy Week like no other.

No in-person Masses, Holy Thursday processions to the altar of repose, communal veneration of the cross, or gathering with fellow parishioners outside, in the dark, faces lit by fire as the Easter Vigil begins.

But that doesn't mean it still can't be incredible, said one Catholic author and mom who has guided her family through marking the Triduum with traditions at home.

"Part of the beauty of it is that you've got the rhythm of the church here, where things come around again and again," Kendra Tierney, a wife, mom of 10 and writer in Los Angeles, told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The author of "The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life," Tierney, 43, literally wrote the book on how to celebrate the church's feasts and fasts in the home. She has been doing so for about 15 years as a way to teach her children the faith and has detailed her family's traditions on her blog, "Catholic All Year."

Even without the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, it can be difficult for families with young children to participate in special liturgies at their parishes, which is why -- with kids ranging in age from 5 months to 17 years -- Tierney focuses on bringing the liturgical year into her home.

"It just really makes our faith so much more alive," Tierney said. "It's just a practical part of our day-to-day life in our family. It's just really been so fruitful for our family to have church not be something that you (only) 'go to,' that it's something that is part of your life."

That's especially true this year, she said, as Catholic families across the U.S. are under stay-at-home orders and cannot attend the customary Triduum liturgies.

"To me, it would feel crazy to just skip it, you know, just say, well, no Holy Week this year," Tierney said. "I want the Holy Week this year. I want the Triduum. ... This can be a really special, memorable time for us and our families."

Her website, catholicallyear.com, includes helpful resources for Holy Week meals, Stations of the Cross and even a Passion play script. She created some resources specifically for this year's unusual Triduum.

But for the Tierneys, many things during Holy Week are familiar. Her family uses the first part of Holy Week for spring cleaning, as a way to prepare the house for Easter.

On "Spy Wednesday" -- the day Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 pieces of silver -- Tierney hides 30 quarters around the house for her kids to find. As her kids knock each other over while looking for them, she turns the squabbles into a lesson about how money can motivate people "not to be our best selves," she said. They also read from the Bible about Judas' betrayal.

On Holy Thursday, the Tierneys have a meal inspired by the Passover Seder: lamb, salad with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. They shape Rice Krispies treats into a lamb for dessert. They talk about how Jesus used the Last Supper to give the church the Eucharist and institute the priesthood. They sing "Pange lingua gloriosi," St. Thomas Aquinas' hymn about the Eucharist, which is traditionally sung on Holy Thursday as the Eucharist is processed from the church's tabernacle to the altar of repose.

"How poignant that's going to be this year as so many of us are separated from (the Eucharist)," Tierney said.

On Good Friday, the Tierney family eats hot cross buns, and while they have frosting and are somewhat sweet, Tierney keeps them small and restricts each person to two, which is where the sacrifice comes in because it's tempting to have 10, she said. They also venerate the cross, each taking a turn to kiss a large cross. It doesn't have to be fancy, Tierney insisted: Take a crucifix off the wall. Make one out of sticks. Whatever works.

"You can lay it down with the top on a step or something, a pile of books, so that the top is higher than the bottom," she said. "And you just say, 'Behold the wood of the cross.'"

The Tierneys also use the same words traditionally used for Stations of the Cross: "I adore you O, Christ and I praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world."

They spend noon to 3 p.m. in quiet and prayer. Kids color Stations of the Cross pictures. Tierney recommends talking a walk, praying the rosary, reading about the crucifixion or doing the Stations of the Cross.

On Holy Saturday, the Tierneys don't join community Easter egg hunts, preferring to wait until Easter actually arrives. But they typically dye eggs and replace Lent decor with Easter decorations.

On Easter Sunday, the Tierneys begin a celebration that lasts the entire 50 days of the liturgical season. The kids enjoy treats and the things they gave up for Lent, and they continue to have Easter egg hunts. They also sing Easter hymns.

For all the effort Tierney puts into "liturgical living," she said it is still a concession.

"I don't want ever to come across as saying that this is as good as these celebrations in a parish and community," she explained. "These celebrations are intended to be used in a community, in a whole parish, in a whole town, in a whole city, in a whole country.

"These celebrations of patron saints, celebration of days during Holy Week, there should be big parades down the main street of the town. But when that's not possible -- and it's the least possible right now that it's ever been -- we have recourse to doing these things in our homes, so that we don't forget, so that they are real for our families."

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Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

 

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On Holy Thursday, pope thanks God for world's priests

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media via Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Unable to invite Rome's priests to mark Holy Thursday in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis thanked all priests for their service and called those who died ministering to the sick and health care workers part of the community of "saints next door."

More than 60 priests have died of COVID-19 in Italy after contracting the coronavirus while carrying out their ministry helping others, he said during the Mass of the Lord's Supper, broadcast on Vatican media April 9.

Because of the pandemic, liturgical celebrations with the pope have been pared down to the essential, eliminating or postponing optional rites and celebrations.

For Holy Thursday, the usual morning chrism Mass with Rome's priests was postponed to a later unspecified date; the optional foot-washing ritual was omitted; and the traditional procession with the Blessed Sacrament at the end of the Mass was also omitted, with the Eucharist placed directly in the tabernacle.

In the past, Pope Francis celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass in detention facilities, rehabilitation centers and with refugees.

This year, the pope presided over the Mass in a vast and empty basilica with a handful of assisting deacons and priests, a reduced choir and a small congregation of about a dozen people, including Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica.

Because Holy Thursday is usually the day priests renew their priestly vows at the morning chrism Mass, Pope Francis said he could not let the Mass of the Lord's Supper go by without remembering the world's priests.

"Today, all of you, brother priests, are here with me at the altar," he said, speaking off-the-cuff in his homily.

The pope said he wished to hold close to his heart every priest, starting with those who offer their lives for the Lord; those who are servants; and those who are missionaries, taking the Gospel to far-off lands, where some will die.

The pope said he was thinking of those priests who minister to people in small villages, taking the time to get to know everyone. He said one priest he knew was so close to his people, he even knew the dogs' names.

Others he was holding close in his heart, he said, were all those priests who must bear insults when they are in public because of the "terrible things" other priests have done.

Close to his heart, he said, are "sinner priests, who together with sinner bishops and a sinner pope, do not forget to ask for forgiveness. They learn to forgive because they know that they need to ask for forgiveness and to forgive. We are all sinners."

He said he was thinking of all those priests who are experiencing a personal crisis and are in a place of "darkness," not knowing what to do.

Speaking to all priests, Pope Francis said, "I have one thing to say: Do not be hard-headed like Peter. Let him wash your feet. The Lord is your servant. He is near you to give you strength, to wash your feet."

When one understands the need to be washed by the Lord, one will become "a great forgiver. Forgive people," have a big heart, don't be afraid, he said.

If there are any doubts, "look at Christ," who offers forgiveness for everyone. "As you have forgiven, you will be forgiven," he told priests.

"I thank God for you, priests. Jesus loves you. He only asks you to let him wash your feet," he said.

During the prayers of the faithful, one petition asked God to sustain all those who are suffering and to help "governing leaders seek the true good and people rediscover hope and peace."

Another petition asked God to "console an afflicted humanity with the certainty of your victory over evil, to heal the sick, console the poor and free everyone from epidemics, violence and selfishness."

On display, like previous ceremonies, were the "Salus Populi Romani" (health of the Roman people) icon and the "Miraculous Crucifix," normally housed in the Church of St. Marcellus. Over the centuries, the icon and crucifix have been associated with miraculous interventions to save the city and its people.

 

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English bishops: To lower risks, chaplains shouldn't give last rites

IMAGE: CNS photo/Matthew Childs, Reuters

By Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Because of the lack of personal protective equipment, priests are being told to counsel dying COVID-19 patients by telephone rather than give them last rites.

The new advice from the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales came amid a surge in the rates of infection of COVID-19 in the U.K., with nearly 1,000 people dying each day.

Bishop Paul Mason of the Bishopric of the Forces, the lead bishop for health issues, said in the April 5 guidance that "it is becoming increasingly clear that giving access to chaplains is difficult due to the scarcity of PPE (personal protective equipment)."

This meant there was a higher risk of a hospital chaplain infecting other chaplains as well as "becoming another link in the chain of infection," he said.

"Our advice, therefore, is for all Catholic chaplaincy coordinators to ensure that they are in constant liaison with hospital ... authorities so that these bodies are aware of the availability of priests," he said.

"They should ensure that contact details of chaplains and priests are available for telephone support of those who need it," he said.

Priests and chaplains, he continued, must follow the instructions of the hospitals in which they serve.

Bishop Mason said while "this runs counter to our instinct to provide personal end-of-life sacramental and pastoral care, in the current circumstances, minimizing the spread of the virus must be the priority of all."

Earlier, chaplains were told they could give last rites if the oil was "applied using a cotton bud, which can be burned afterward" and the priest "suspends his hands over the sick person for laying on of hands."

Access to the other sacraments already has been halted. Public Masses and most confessions are suspended and baptisms, confirmations and weddings have also been deferred until after the pandemic.

Churches are closed even to private prayer as part of the three-week-old national lockdown.

Similar restrictions exist elsewhere, prompting Pope Francis to suggest a liberal interpretation of canon law to an Italian bishop frustrated because he was unable to gain direct contact with patients to give them absolution.

The pope told British journalist Austen Ivereigh that he advised that bishop to fulfill his priestly duty and "found out later that he was giving absolution all around the place."

"This is the freedom of the Spirit in the midst of a crisis," said Pope Francis in the interview published in The Tablet April 8.

"That doesn't mean that canon law is not important: It is," the pope said. "But the final canon says that the whole of canon law is for the salvation of souls, and that's what opens the door for us to go out in times of difficulty to bring the consolation of God."

 

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Investors urge pharmacy companies to collaborate on COVID-19 response

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- An investor coalition has called on 14 large pharmaceutical firms to collaborate in developing health technologies, including diagnostic tests, treatments and a vaccine, in response to the new coronavirus.

The investors, members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, urged the companies to "govern with financial prudence and a commitment to uphold your social license to operate by ensuring affordable access to all" of any care options related to the illness that has swept around the globe since November.

"It is not hyperbole to say that the eyes of the world are trained on pharmaceutical companies in the hopes of the swift development of tests and a vaccine," Lauren Compere, managing director and director of shareholder engagement at Boston Common Asset Management, said in a statement released by ICCR accompanying the April 1 letter.

The letter was made public April 7 by ICCR.

"We have long engaged these companies, both individually and collectively via roundtables, around strategies to increase the access and affordability of life-saving medicines. We know they have the capacity to do this. We also know they will accomplish more and faster if they work together," Compere said.

The investors cited a litany of actions the pharmaceutical companies can take, from sharing compounds and data among researchers to accelerate the development of diagnostics, treatments and a vaccine to advocating for the U.S. government and other parties to support collaborative efforts among countries in response to the virus.

Other steps urged include support for low- and middle-income nations that lack resources to adequately respond to the COVID-19 threat by not enforcing intellectual property rights; support for governments' decision to issue compulsory licenses to ensure affordable prices; and issuing voluntary licenses and exploring licensing agreements with existing organizations to facilitate access to new technologies.

The investors in particular point to the $700 million investment through U.S. taxpayer dollars the companies have received since 2002 to support research as a primary reason for the companies to act with prudence in their research related to the virus.

The letter also pressed the firms to maintain a commitment to data quality and patient safety, saying "while speeding up the development of vaccines and medicines is of the utmost urgency, this should not come at the expense of patient safety."

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Bishop, faith groups urge Trump to support debt relief for poor nations

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jeanty Junior Augustin, Reuters

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two leading proponents of debt relief for developing countries urged the White House to lead the call for a moratorium on debt payments for poor nations so they can devote funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The request came in an April 8 letter from Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of faith-based development and advocacy groups.

The letter said a moratorium would aid the 76 poorest countries while safeguarding U.S. economic interests.

"The leadership of the U.S. government is vital to ensuring that our world will emerge from this pandemic with greater resilience and a renewed understanding of the greater interconnectedness of humanity," the letter said.

A decision to suspend debt payments would allow for a better way to assess debt sustainability and vulnerabilities and, if necessary, open a process to restructure debt, the letter added.

The request comes as the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers from the European Union and industrial and emerging market nations were preparing to discuss the issue during meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank starting April 14.

G-20 finance officials have long expressed concern about the high level of debt of developing nations and emerging market economies.

"Suspending debt payments, with no interest, can immediately allow countries to access funds to bolster their health systems and support needed stimulus packages in the developing world, allowing these countries to provide for their own health safety and security," the letter said.

Bishop Malloy and LeCompte also wrote that the financial crisis that has emerged as the pandemic grows threatens U.S. imports and exports to developing countries.

"Providing a suspension of debt payments and debt relief will help safeguard our common interests of returning the U.S. economy to prosperity and growth," they said.

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A virus challenges a U.S. culture that may need the lessons it can teach

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy St. Luke Inst

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A particle invisible to humans with the naked eye has hurt the preferred psychological armor those in the U.S. most like to wear: the busy lifestyle.

It put a stop to almost everything we loved and even hated, from the mundane office meeting to the enviable vacations and fun family activities posted on Instagram and Facebook, the conferences we attended, and even the religious rituals and obligations we most cared about. 

When the threat of the coronavirus began shutting down U.S. cities and towns, then activities one by one in mid-March, it also began chipping away at the country's "very busy, achievement-oriented culture," said Emily Cash, a psychologist and director of the Saint Luke Center in Louisville, Kentucky, part of the Saint Luke Institute clergy treatment center based in Silver Spring, Maryland.

In the U.S., "we focus on productivity, we focus on what we can accomplish, how hard we're working. ... We all tend to wear that with a lot of pride," she said in an April 8 interview with Catholic News Service.

And though the present confinement can bring on what can seem like a heavy weight on our psyche, it also can bring a great spiritual opportunity, one we often hear about but may not stop long enough to truly take in during our busy lives.

"From the spiritual perspective, the huge challenge for all of us is how do we internalize the knowledge that God loves us for what we are, not what we do, not what we produce or what we accomplish," Cash said. "In this moment, we're all forced to be still and redefine business and redefine productivity, and be still in a way that we've never really been called to do. How can we, maybe deepen our faith, our understanding that God loves us, in spite of what we're not producing, exactly because of who were are ... and accepting that in a different way? I think that really can be very powerful for folks."

As the pandemic seems to advance each day in the U.S. with no certain timeline of when it will end, she urges those with anxieties to focus on the day ahead.

"What I'm encouraging my clients to do ... is to focus less on an end date and more on one day at a time," she said. "What do I need today? What can I do today? How do I ground myself today? Because when we fixate on those end dates and those are not met, we are faced with a whole other rush of anxieties and disappointments and so trying to deal with one day at a time, moment by moment, can be a real anchoring experience for folks."

When authorities began encouraging the now widespread stay-at-home orders, the adrenaline of the situation allowed people to put stress aside, to some degree, she said, "but the uncertainty and length of this, for all of us is a challenge."

Those dealing with coronavirus anxiety may be experiencing post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety, sleep disruption, confusion, anger, fear, frustration and boredom, she said, in a video posted on Saint Luke's website. She encourages those trying to manage the anxiety to get the facts from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control as well as local authorities.

But she warns not to do too much of a "deep dive" into information, to limit activity that might prove to be too stressful at the end of the day and to practice self-care.

She encourages clients to think about their physical, emotional and psychological and spiritual spheres, thinking of each one as a bank that you have to put money into each day.

 "So, what am I going to do for myself spiritually today? That's going to look like a shared prayer with a (virtual) community, a spiritual reading ... I know I need more laughter in my life: Am I going to watch a funny YouTube video? Am I going to call a friend?"

Evenings should be about planning out the next day: what to accomplish, even if it's broken into one-hour chunks or 30-minute chunks, she said.

"We want control of what we're doing," she said. "When we feel healthy, we want control over our structure, we are productive. When we are able to connect, we feel better. Building elements of that into the day is something I'm really encouraging folks to do."

Even after the crisis has ended, it may take a while for the world to return to the one we knew, she said.

"I think there's going to be increased caution," she said.

Though people may experience a sense of freedom, people may also have a feeling of uncertainty, lack of security, trust.

"So, I think it will be a little bit of a push and pull and dance as we all come back from that," she said.

When she works with clients who have experienced trauma, she explains that there's an emotional peak of that experience and then as you heal, little aftershocks appear that may take months or years to settle.

But until that happens, she encouraged compassion for oneself and for others.

"Ideally what we'd like to be able to do is greet each day with a different level of peace because what we know is that we, as a country, as a world, we'll be facing a lot of loss, " she said. "There are certainly communities that have already been faced with that. But I think what we know, from the numbers and from that data, is that we will continue to face that (loss). There's a way in which, if we can focus on one moment at a time, we'll be more equipped and better prepared to be able to handle that and to come out on the other side."

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Tobin: Suggestions for 'spiritual closeness in time of social distancing'

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Newark

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This is one of a series of pastoral and personal reflections on living in this time of pandemic. It was written by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and posted April 1 on the archdiocesan website, https://www.rcan.org, and titled "Spiritual Closeness in a Time of Social Distancing: Seven Suggestions." This is part of an occasional series of reflections CNS will have from some U.S. Catholic bishops.

As Christians, we encounter Jesus in his people -- our families and friends, our neighbors and fellow parishioners, our co-workers and schoolmates, even people we don't know personally (strangers) who we come in contact with as we go about our daily lives. Jesus tells us that we find him in the "least of these" brothers and sisters (cf. Mt 25: 31-46), so being close to them means being close to him.

During this unprecedented time of pandemic, we need to be especially concerned about those who are experiencing intense anxiety, feel lonely and abandoned, and who really count on public worship for their own support. We also should be concerned about how the spiritual lives of our people will be impacted by the drastic changes we are all experiencing for the first time in our lives. The Eucharist and the celebration of the Mass are so central to our church that their absence is really felt deeply by us.

"Social distancing" is necessary for the common good, but we need to counter this with a dramatic increase in what Pope Francis calls "spiritual closeness." How can we stay close to Jesus, and all our sisters and brothers, at a time when concern for them demands that we keep our distance? How can we remain spiritually close at the same time that we practice social distancing?

Here are some simple suggestions for staying close spiritually while maintaining a safe and respectful social distance:

1. Begin each day with prayer. Ask Jesus to stay close to you and to all your family and friends. Pray for the health and well-being of everyone you associate with, and of all God's people throughout the world.

2. Express your love and concern for the people you live with -- your spouse, children, other relatives or friends. Comfort and encourage them when they are frightened and feeling closed-in or helpless.

3. Reach out to other family members, friends and colleagues by telephone, texting, email and other forms of social media. Let them know that you are close to them and that you share their experiences and anxiety.

4. Attend Mass and other prayers and devotions virtually. Many opportunities are available each day on television, radio and online. Participation in the life of the Church can help us feel more closely connected with God and with each other. Make a spiritual communion (see below).

5. As you go about your daily business -- working remotely, studying at home, doing spring cleaning, caring for children or family members, preparing dinner, doing the laundry, and more -- look for opportunities to offer up your activities to God in gratitude for his closeness to you.

6. To the extent that you can, share your financial resources with those in need. Online giving is available for most religious, educational and charitable organizations, but if that's not an option for you, you can write a check and mail it, or set aside some cash to give to someone in need once the current stay at home order has been lifted.

7. Be patient with yourself and those you love. This is a strange and difficult time for all of us. Frustration and anger are understandable reactions. We need to help each other remain calm and trust in the healing power of Jesus who is close to us -- now and always.

Prayer for Spiritual Communion: "Dear Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. I love you above all things, and I desire to receive your body and blood. Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. Stay close to me, Jesus, so that I may be close to all our sisters and brothers, especially those who are most in need of your loving care. Amen."

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Disappointed, but hopeful, thousands unable to join church this Easter

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mihoko Owada, Catholic

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The disappointment of not being able to celebrate Easter Mass in churches across the country this year might be most strongly felt by the thousands who planned to join the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.

The vigil Mass -- which starts in darkness and is brightened by an outdoor flame that spreads to the Paschal candle and individual candles -- is rich in liturgical symbols about darkness and light, doubt and faith, old life and new. It highlights not only the resurrection of Jesus but the new life experienced by believers that is visually demonstrated by the baptism of those joining the church.

The Mass includes the baptism, confirmation and first Communion of catechumens joining the church after preparing for several months through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA. Candidates, those who are already baptized, receive confirmation and first Communion at the vigil to enter full communion with the church.

This year, amid the coronavirus pandemic and state restrictions to curb the disease's spread that prevent gatherings of 10 or more, Catholic churches in the United States have been closed for public Masses. Many parishes and dioceses are livestreaming their services with simply the celebrant and maybe a lector or cantor present.

As this has been the new normal for parishes across the country, RCIA coordinators and diocesan leaders realized in late March that they would very likely have to postpone rites of initiation. Many started setting their sights on Pentecost, which is May 31, but they also have said no date can be set, obviously, because no one can predict when churches will reopen.

"It is very disappointing to be in this process for a long time and have the finish line in sight, and now the line has been moved," said Sara Blauvelt, director of catechesis for the Archdiocese of Washington. "It's hard not to be discouraged, but we have to remember there is great hope in Christ, and that is what we have to cling to."

As far as a rescheduled date, she too is hoping for Pentecost but said: "We can't promise anything at this point other than to promise they will receive the sacraments when it is the right time." She said this is a sad time for the church, but she also believes "new life will come after the pandemic, and new life in Christ will come for our candidates and elect."

That's the hope of Dustin Pollock, who planned to join the church and receive sacraments of initiation at St. Rose of Lima Church in Layton, Utah, this Easter.

Pollock's parents were baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but they did not practice the faith, and he grew up without any religion. He found the Catholic Church through his second wife, who is a practicing Catholic. After attending Mass with her, initially so she wouldn't have to go alone, the faith began to mean something to him personally and he started the RCIA process.

In recent weeks, he and his wife have been watching Masses online, but they are looking forward to the day when they can go to Mass in person and receive the Eucharist together. For now, Pollack said he is determined to wait and "stay in touch with the Lord through prayer and meditation, but it's hard."

As a service provider at a tire store, Pollock is performing essential work and as such still goes in every day and interacts with many people. Not knowing if he is unintentionally being exposed to the virus is difficult.

"Silently, in my head, I am constantly praying," he said. "It's so stressful every day; if I didn't have my faith, I would be going crazy. I couldn't make it through without it."

"I definitely look forward to moving forward in this. I will forever be in this faith," he added.

And in this waiting period, candidates and catechumens have been encouraged to keep up with the faith they've been studying and discussing for weeks via Zoom conference calls and Google hangouts.

Michael Bayer, director of evangelization and adult formation at St. Clement Catholic Church in Chicago, said that since the parish has finished all of its RCIA formation classes, program leaders are encouraging participants to become involved in broader parish ministries, even though for now these ministries are all virtual, such as couples groups or weekly Bible studies.

He said the RCIA participants are very understanding. "Several work in health care, including a couple of nurses, so people certainly comprehend the gravity of what we are facing with the coronavirus threat."

Sister Rosanne Belpedio, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who is director of the Office of Worship for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, said the pandemic similarly challenges the faith of those in the church and those waiting to be a part of it.

She has encouraged RCIA directors not to lose momentum and to urge participants to reflect on what they are going through by asking: "Where is God acting in my life in this unusual circumstance?" and also "What do these times require of me?"

"We don't know what life will be like" after restrictions are lifted, she said, but she also said the church can't lose sight of this opportunity to deepen faith and to bring the community together, reminding everyone of their obligations to one another.

The faith lessons learned now will certainly carry over for those who have started their journey to the church in this unexpected year. In the Los Angeles Archdiocese alone, there are more than 1,600 catechumens and nearly the same number of candidates.

Kristin Bird, one of the directors of the RCIA program at Most Blessed Sacrament in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, this year, said participants are understandably disappointed about the postponement, but one candidate said he felt "a special bond with the rest of the parish that he didn't necessarily feel before" mainly because other parishioners are waiting to receive the Eucharist just as he is.

Bird, who has been filling in for other RCIA leaders, is the executive director of Burning Hearts Disciples, a Wisconsin-based apostolate to help Catholics renew and deepen their faith.

She said the RCIA team intends to keep meeting with those in the program through video conferences to continue to walk with them, virtually, on their journey. Now, many of the conversations have been about handling the current pandemic which has also led to conversations about the sacraments, prayer, the nature of suffering that they might not have had otherwise.

"Their closeness as a group and their focus on growing closer to Jesus has given them a solid foundation that provides stability even as they have to constantly adjust their expectations," she added.

In the meantime, Blauvelt, from the Washington Archdiocese, said the whole church should be disappointed about the delay in welcoming new members.

"Every parish is enriched by new family members. Every time someone joins the faith -- comes to Christ in the Catholic Church -- we are richer. So, we are impoverished as we wait with them," she said, adding: "We are serious about welcoming them."

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Contributing to this story was Richard Szczepanowski, managing editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, and Linda Petersen, a reporter for the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

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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 cns@catholicnews.com.

USCCB Administrative Committee cancels U.S. bishops' June assembly

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has canceled the U.S. bishops' spring general assembly that was planned for June 10-12 in Detroit.

"Given the current situation with the coronavirus that has been classified by the World Health Organization as a pandemic, the Administrative Committee of the USCCB voted earlier this week to cancel the June assembly," said a USCCB news release issued the afternoon of April 8.

This marks the first cancellation of a plenary assembly in the conference's history.

"The Administrative Committee made this very difficult decision with consideration of multiple factors, but most importantly the health, well-being and safety of the hundreds of bishops, staff, observers, guests, affiliates, volunteers, contractors and media involved with the general meetings, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB, said in announcing the decision.

"Additionally, even if the numerous temporary restrictions on public gatherings resulting from conditions associated with COVID-19 are lessened by June," he said, "the priority for the physical and pastoral presence of the bishop in his See will be acute to tend to the faithful."

The USCCB bylaws state that a plenary assembly is to be convened at least once a year. As such, the November 2020 general assembly meeting in Baltimore -- scheduled for Nov. 16-19 -- would fulfill this requirement.

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Closed churches: Archbishop wants people to 'celebrate many more Easters'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Christopher Gunty

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Acknowledging the pain that the world is experiencing as the novel coronavirus claims thousands of lives and disrupts everyday routines, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said he wants nothing more than to open wide the doors to churches, but such a step is impossible given "the massive public health threat we are facing."

"We have to respond reasonably to this, but at the same time recognize that the moment will come when we will be able to get back together and to celebrate together. I look forward to that day," he said.

The archbishop met with members of the Baltimore media April 7 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary -- with appropriate social distancing -- to discuss Holy Week, Easter and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on parishes.

He said most of the correspondence he has received about the closing of churches has been supportive, with people recognizing the archdiocese is conforming to the letter and the spirit of the law.

"The spirit of the law is to protect people. We want to celebrate this Easter, but I want as many people as possible to celebrate many more Easters. And so, for that reason, we have taken these extraordinary steps," he said, to suspend all public Masses during the holiest week in the church's calendar.

Masses throughout the archdiocese are being celebrated by parish priests without the presence of the faithful.

Archbishop Lori said some people always will disagree with the church closings, and he respects their opinion because it represents "a hunger for the sacraments, a hunger to worship, a hunger to listen to the word of God with the community of faith, a hunger to celebrate the great events of our salvation."

He said he hopes that as Catholics go through such an extraordinary time, they will develop a greater appreciation for the value, meaning and importance of worshipping together in church.

Parishes will continue to follow deep-cleaning guidelines recommended by public health professionals so that when churches reopen, they will be as safe as possible, he added.

As the virus peaks and incidences of COVID-19 decline, restrictions on public gatherings may loosen.

"We'll have to see what guidance we get because we want to be a good citizen. We want to keep people safe. And we want to make sure that when we do reopen, it is perfectly safe for everybody to be together," Archbishop Lori said.

He praised the work of priests who have been livestreaming Masses and finding other ways to reach out to their flocks, including sending messages of support and hope.

In addition to technological options, the archbishop said some parishes have used phone trees to allow parishioners to connect with each other. Putting together a group of volunteers to call parishioners can encourage personal contact even when people cannot be together physically.

"Saying quite simply, 'How are you? What do you need? If you live alone, are you doing all right?' If you're elderly, if you're vulnerable, that means so much to people," he said.

Acknowledging this Lent has been very trying, Archbishop Lori said God can help make sense of events in life, even the ones where through which people struggle. "God will pull good out of evil," he said. "God pulls joy out of suffering. God pulls life out of death.

"That's really what we celebrate in Holy Week, where you see the Lord on the cross and you think it's an execution, it's a defeat, it's death. But really, that was the door opening to new life and to grace and to goodness and to sanctity and to generosity of spirit," he explained.

The archbishop noted the pandemic has led to a difficult financial time for the archdiocese and its parishes, but that online giving and other relief packages, including loans available from the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Small Business Administration, will help. "A lot of people have been stepping up to the plate very generously and graciously," he said.

The archdiocese also put together a relief package for parishes and schools worth about $7 million by deferring some of the payments normally due for retirement and health costs.

Asked whether some parishes might not be able to survive the downturn, the archbishop said he doesn't want any parish to close by default.

"We're doing our level best to sustain our parishes," he said.

Archbishop Lori will celebrate Holy Week and Easter services at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, which will be livestreamed. The cathedral's website is https://www.cathedralofmary.org. The online broadcasts since churches were closed have attracted large numbers of viewers.

"Our churches are usually very packed on Sunday, but through livestreaming, I've discovered I'm actually reaching a lot more people than I usually do on a Sunday," he said. On several occasions, more devices were tuned into the Sunday Mass at the cathedral than there are seats in the church, one of the largest in the archdiocese.

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Gunty is associate publisher/editor of Catholic Review Media, the media arm of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

 

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'Busier now' than before pandemic, says head of disabilities group

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Charleen Katra

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Much has been made of how businesses are grinding to a halt in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Not so with the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, according to its new executive director, Charleen Katra. "If anything, I think it's busier now," she told Catholic News Service in an April 7 phone interview.

In contrast to the stilled traffic across much of the nation and world, internet traffic is up considerably. That is reflected in the NCPD's website, www.ncpd.org, which offers daily COVID-19 updates and an NCPD statement on the rights of persons with disabilities to medical treatment during the pandemic.

"The last two to three weeks intensified our response to the pandemic, the crisis, under our COVID-19 resource section of our website," Katra said.

Not everything on the NCPD website is from the organization's own members and staff. There are lots of links. NCPD "works hard to be a clearinghouse for other good information out there -- on many topics," Katra said.

One of the newest is educational in scope. "Some of the major publishers have given anything and everything they have for this community of diverse learning. They're giving it away right now for several months at least," Katra told CNS. "They've said, 'Here's the password, use it for free right now.'"

Katra has a focus on autism and mental health issues, saying both have been on the rise. "We almost can't provide resources and training fast enough for our church," she said. "We have a gentlemen on our board who has six children. All six are on the autism spectrum. That's amazing to me."

She added. "It's amazing to see what some families' family life is like right now. ... They have other diagnoses, too, on top of (autism) ... as if that wasn't enough. Often times, depression over an illness, anxiety, it's really monumental."

Katra said, "I think it's sometimes deeper and stronger than they might even imagine. And right now, with the pandemic, I'm really concerned, with people struggling with anxiety and depression. Let's say you have a brain without that little toggle that tells you to stay rational and calm. What do you do now?"

The pandemic can provide "teachable moments that highlight in positive ways the gifts of someone with disabilities," Katra said. "It's more what are our different gifts ... even right now."

She added, "Someone with Down syndrome might have something someone needs to make them laugh, and that that will help them feel joyful an peaceful in stressful times."

Katra took over as NCPD's executive director Dec. 1, following the retirement of Janice Benton. She had spent the previous 20 years working for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston as associate director of evangelization and catechesis, with ministry to persons with disabilities being a core part of her responsibilities. "NCPD was a tremendous resource to me at the local level," Katra recalled.

"I heartily enjoyed working for the archdiocese. I thought our ministry was the best ministry of the whole archdiocese," she said. "I truly was not looking for anything." She was aware of the looming  NCPD vacancy, since she had served on the organization's board the past couple of years. "I wasn't really even putting my name in the hat, so to speak. But someone recommended me," which obligated the search committee to assess Katra's interest, a process Katra said she likewise felt obligated to respect.

"It was a leap of faith at my stage in life," she said, adding she told her former boss, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, "I heard God calling." That itself was not enough. "I talked to my husband, prayer, of course, God," Katra noted. "That's how it started, and within four months I was here. ... I just seemed a little open to God's will."

She figures about 25% of the U.S. population "has some diagnosis of disability." That leaves "the other population, 75%. What are we doing to educate them? That's where we can turn some corners."

Katra said she takes to heart something St. John Paul II once said, that "people with disabilities are prophets of how we will all become if we live a long life."

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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 cns@catholicnews.com.

Dolan: 'We are confident the Resurrection of Easter is unstoppable'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By

This is one of a series of pastoral and personal reflections on living in this time of pandemic. It was written by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York as his weekly column published April 2 in Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper, with the headline "The Resurrection of Easter Is unstoppable." This is part of an occasional series of reflections CNS will have from some U.S. Catholic bishops.

It's a tough time, my good people, a "built-in" Holy Week, as all of us are close to Jesus in his hour of agony and death on the cross.

Those suffering from the virus have a share in our Lord's passion, as do their families so worried. Our courageous and indefatigable health care providers sense the discouragement and weariness of our Savior carrying his cross. All of us, apprehensive about the future, reminded of our vulnerability, cloistered from family, friends, neighbors and parishes, missing Mass and the sacraments a lot, are making our own stations of the cross.

Yet, on the way, like that first Good Friday in Jerusalem, we meet heroes. Think of Veronica, who soothed the bruised, bleeding face of Jesus; now imagine those caregivers easing a patient with fever, coughing, aches and pains, a sore throat, who worries about it getting worse.

Now consider Simon of Cyrene, who helped an exhausted Jesus carry his cross up the rocky hill to Calvary; now focus on essential workers -- police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, EMTs, chaplains, sanitation workers, grocery and food delivery folks, our utility personnel -- who take a risk these days staying on duty to help us all get through this.

Now recall Mary, His sorrowful mother; St. John, His beloved disciple; and the other holy women, keeping the dying Jesus company, consoling and encouraging Him; now switch to our parents, family members, teachers, volunteers and neighbors, checking in on the fragile and elderly, leaving meals on porches, getting medicine when they need it.

And what about the centurion, so moved by the sacrifice, love, patience and mercy of this prisoner on the cross, who was led to confess, "Truly, this man was the Son of God!"; and now zero in on those recovering a sense of faith, a trust in prayer, a turning to God that may have gone dormant, now revived by these troubles.

Yes, as a Gospel during Holy Week somberly starts, "It was dark."

True, there is indeed darkness out there, as there was that afternoon of a Friday weirdly called "good" when the sun hid and the earth trembled.

Bring on Easter! Pardon the misquote of the song from "Mame," but "we need a little Easter, right this very moment!"

It will be a unique one for sure: We won't be able to dress in our finest and go to Mass; no big family dinners with ham or lamb; no visiting with aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Ah, but there's no eclipsing the triumph of Easter. "He is risen as He said."

"The strife is o'er, the battle done/Now is the Victor's triumph won."

No darkness is more pervasive than His light; no struggle is lost with Him as our victor; no death is permanent with Him as our life.

April 1 was the 43rd anniversary of my dad's sudden death at 51.

Rarely did he speak of his years in the Navy during World War II. He sure had the right to do so, as he was in the midst of the harrowing battles in the Pacific. Yes, he was there at Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Midway, Manila.

One paschal holiday when I was a boy he did speak of Easter Sunday in April 1945. On the USS Cleveland, his ship, there were wounded Marines. Among his fellow sailors there was trepidation galore as they kept lookout for kamikaze planes, and heard the news that fierce battles, maybe even an invasion of Japan, were ahead.

Yet, he told us, victory was in the air! They realized the "good guys" had the upper hand, that by next Easter they might be home, that their sacrifices were hardly wasted.

It was his most memorable Easter, Dad commented, and he would never forget the Filipino priest who came aboard for early morning Mass, who moved them all by thanking them for coming to the assistance of his homeland, and commented simply, "Good Friday is fading; Easter always wins!"

Seems this Holy Week that we're all locked for a while in a Holy Saturday posture; we trust the worst of Good Friday is over, and we are confident that the Resurrection of Easter is unstoppable.

A blessed Easter!

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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 cns@catholicnews.com.