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Coronavirus keeps volunteers away, but Arkansas Catholic Charities plans help for tornado victims

Little Rock, Ark., Mar 31, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- An EF3 tornado blew through Jonesboro, Arkansas, this week, and although no deaths have been reported, Catholic Charities of Arkansas is gearing up to help those whose livelihoods will be affected by the disaster.

Patrick Gallaher, director of Catholic Charities of Arkansas, told CNA that he anticipates that their involvement with the disaster in Jonesboro will involve long term case management to help uninsured and underinsured families recover and settle into permanent housing.

Typically, with a tornado like this, Catholic Charities will work with Habitat for Humanity to help get underinsured people into a Habitat for Humanity house, he said.

“We have been in contact with the parish in Jonesboro, Blessed Sacrament Church, and with their local Society of St. Vincent de Paul Council, but have not received any reports of damage or need at this moment. Once we begin receiving information from Jonesboro, we will be able to craft a response to meet the specific needs,” Gallaher said.

The tornado damaged nearly 200 structures, including several factories. Governor Asa Hutchinson has declared a state disaster and the state is seeking a federal designation from the national government.

Though Catholic Charities of Arkansas is not part of the immediate emergency response, Gallaher clarified, first responders in the county, with state assistance, have set up an emergency shelter with care being taken not to spread the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Craigshead County, where Jonesboro is located, has eight confirmed COVID-19 cases. The state as a whole has around 500.

Gallaher said the main difficulties in helping victims of the tornado is a lack of volunteers and funds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Most of my volunteers, my disaster volunteers, are elderly people. And I wasn't even going to call them, I don't want to take a chance," Gallaher told CNA.

He also noted that fundraising has been made more difficult by the suspension of public Masses in the Diocese of Little Rock.

About three percent of the state's population is undocumented immigrants, who will not be eligible for federal or state unemployment assistance, Gallaher said. With Jonesboro as a manufacturing hub, and much of the city's factory capacity destroyed, Gallaher said he expects Catholic Charities will likely start receiving requests for assistance with food.

“I expect that as the protocols put in place to contain the epidemic continue, we will be hearing from families unable to meet their daily needs because of lack of employment. Although the federal and state response regarding unemployment insurance and direct payments will help most, there will be a segment of our population that is ineligible and will need assistance,” Gallaher said.

Kentucky AG aims to declare abortion 'non-essential' under coronavirus bans

CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2020 / 06:30 pm (CNA).- Kentucky’s attorney general has joined the national controversy over whether abortion clinics can continue to operate at a time when other surgeries and procedures have been canceled or delayed to conserve medical resources to combat the novel coronavirus.

“Abortion providers should join the thousands of other medical professionals across the state in ceasing elective procedures, unless the life of the mother is at risk, to protect the health of their patients and slow the spread of the coronavirus,” Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron said March 27.

The attorney general has asked Kentucky’s Acting Secretary of Health and Family Services Eric Friedlander to certify that abortion providers are not essential under the governor's executive order barring non-essential medical procedures. The certification is necessary to act against any abortion clinics in violation.

According to Cameron, the certification would advance the goals of conserving medical supplies and advancing the “social distancing” deemed necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“Acting Secretary Friedlander is on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am confident that he understands, better than anyone, the necessity of ending abortion procedures during this health crisis,” Cameron said. “His certification will immediately trigger action by our office to stop elective procedures during the pandemic.”

The only remaining abortion clinic in the state is EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville. It continues to perform abortions.

Cameron, the current attorney general, is a Republican. He made the request to the administration of Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, who was Kentucky Attorney General from 2016 to 2019.
Beshear campaigned on a pro-abortion rights position and defeated deeply controversial incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin by about 5,000 votes in the November 2019 elections.

State legislators have proposed a bill to allow the attorney general's office to proceed with legal action without a certification from the health and family services department, the CBS affiliate WLKY reports.

The State Senate could consider the legislation, House Bill 451, on Wednesday. A floor amendment could bar abortions during the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

CNA contacted the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.

Federal judges in Texas, Alabama, and Ohio on Monday halted state rules that would limit or halt entirely abortions during the coronavirus pandemic on the grounds they are non-essential surgeries. On Tuesday the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily reinstated the Texas rule.

Indiana, Oklahoma, and Iowa have similarly acted to limit abortions. A hearing on the Iowa law is pending and the others too could be challenged in court.

For their part, officials in Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Oregon have said abortions may continue.

In Utah, judgment about the medical necessity of an abortion will be left to the doctor, a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health told the pro-abortion rights website Rewire News.

 

Nicaraguan bishops cancel annual pilgrimage, but mayor reportedly goes ahead

CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Local media in Nicaragua are reporting that despite the nation’s bishops’ conference suspending Mass and prohibiting large gatherings, the mayor of Granada is going ahead with an annual pilgrimage that the bishops had canceled.

For more than 150 years, Catholics in Nicaragua have venerated an image of Jesus del Rescate (Jesus of the Rescue) in Popoyuapa, near the city of Rivas. The image represents the crowning of thorns and the flogging of Christ.

Normally there is an annual pilgrimage to the image, which pilgrims make by wagon and on foot, during the "Week of Sorrows" that marks "the final stretch" of the time of Lent, according to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner.

However, the bishops have said that this year it will not be possible to carry it out in the traditional way, given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Nevertheless, Julia Mena, mayor of Granada, has organized and funded a group of pilgrims to do the pilgrimage, providing them with food and personal hygiene supplies, according to the Nicaraguan news website Confidencial. The priest at the shrine told Confidencial that he has “no plans to receive the pilgrimage.”

The Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference has not commented publicly on the matter.

Nicaragua has five confirmed cases of COVID-19. The government has not yet decreed any kind of alert or emergency regarding the pandemic, nor has it ordered a suspension of classes, Confidencial reports.

The country’s Ministry of Health has maintained that the internal movements of travelers arriving from countries with outbreaks of coronavirus would not be restricted, La Prensa reports.

President Daniel Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

The Church had suggested that elections, which are not scheduled until 2021, be held this year, but Ortega has ruled this out.

Ortega was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

Maine priest encourages 'Pine Sunday' where there are no palms

Portland, Maine, Mar 31, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- With public Masses cancelled across the United States, ahead of Palm Sunday this weekend, some Maine Catholics are being encouraged to adopt a substitute devotional practice: pine branches. 

Traditionally, Catholics receive blessed palm branches during Mass on Palm Sunday, this year celebrated on 5 April, to mark Christ’s arrival into Jerusalem and the start of Holy Week. That will not happen this year, due to the coronavirus outbreak and the nationwide suspension of public Masses.

“Unfortunately, we won’t be blessing any palms in this year’s celebration because we won’t be able to process with them, nor can we distribute them so that you can place blessed palms in your home after Mass,” said Fr. Louis Phillips of the Diocese of Portland (ME) said. 

Instead, he has suggested to his parishioners at his three parishes to go outside--in a socially-distant manner--and clip a small pine branch to place behind a crucifix.

Phillips dubbed the idea “Pine Sunday,” and he is encouraging it among Catholics at St. Anne Parish in Gorham, St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Westbrook, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Windham. 

He told CNA that the idea of people came from a conversation he had with friends living in Florida. He realized that they would be able to grab a palm--albeit a non-blessed palm--from one of the naturally growing palm trees, and place it in their homes. 

“I thought, ‘Oh, too bad we don’t have any palm trees in Maine,’” said Phillips. “Then I got to thinking. I was looking outside, and thinking ‘but we do have plenty of pine trees.’” 

Maine’s official state nickname is “The Pine Tree State” and the trees are ubiquitous throughout the region.

“So I got to thinking that the people of Jesus’ time when they welcomed Him into Jerusalem that day, that first Palm Sunday, what they were doing in essence was laying out a red carpet for him,” said Phillips. Palm branches were readily available in Jerusalem, he explained, so they were a natural choice.

Phillips said that he hopes the presence of the pine branch will serve as a reminder of the Passion of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, as well as a remembrance of the unusual time that was Lent 2020. 

“I think this will be a Holy Week that none of us will forget, but that might just bring to mind the blessings and the challenges that we're facing today. Maybe when we look back on it in retrospect in months to come, we'll find some meaning in it all,” said Phillips. 

“So I thought maybe those pine branches could help do that, and still connect us really not only with the events of Holy Week but connect us with one another. If we kind of do this collectively, even though we are separated physically, there's something to be said when still we come together to pray together and celebrate our faith together through this simple thing,” he added.

The palms that were set to be delivered and distributed to the parishioners at Phillips’ three parishes will instead be used to decorate the church where Mass is live-streamed. Phillips said that this year, pine branches will also be a part of those decorations. 

At least one other priest in Maine has endorsed the concept of “Pine Sunday” for this year.

Fr. Seamus Griesbach, the director of vocations for the Diocese of Portland, approved of the “Pine Sunday” idea, and thought it was an excellent substitute for the traditional Palm Sunday tradition. 

“I was like, that is an awesome idea,” said Griesbach, when he learned of Phillips’ suggestion. 

YouTube, Griesbach said, half-jokingly, that the process of clipping a pine branch could also be a way to promote handwashing, as pine sap is incredibly sticky. 

“That stuff is nasty, it never comes off,” said Griesbach. “If you can wash that pine sap off your hands, you know that the coronavirus certainly isn’t surviving.” 

How college students can spend their time during the coronavirus

Denver, Colo., Mar 31, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- The coronavirus pandemic has led colleges across the country to close their dorms, and offer classes online. As students return home with time on their hands, Catholics involved in campus ministry have offered advice on how to spend this time wisely.

Father John Ignatius, SJC, who served as chaplain at the University of Denver, and Peter Nguyen, a FOCUS missionary for Harvard University, have emphasized the important role of community, spiritual life, and charitable actions amidst quarantine.

Ignatius, who also leads the Servants of Christ Jesus religious community, told CNA that displaced students should prioritize prayer, community, and exercise, while making efforts to limit their screen time.

“It'll be so easy to binge on episodes [on] Netflix. [They should] decrease screen time and extracurricular time to be more relational,” Fr. Ignatius said.

“College students would do well to stay in touch with each other via phones … Hopefully it's a live conversation by phone or by Skype or FaceTime or any of the mediums you're actually having face time with peers that are at a distance.”

Fr. Ignatius said displaced students should also make time for charity, especially by picking up the phone.

“Just consider the consolation and the blessing that a grandson or a granddaughter could give to someone who's isolated and scared. It makes all the difference in the world to have just a 15 or 20 minute conversation with the grandparents and just think beyond one's own interests,” he said.

The priest added that students might also consider offering virtual tutoring to children they know have been displaced from school, or, if local laws permit it, offering snacks or essentials to homeless people while taking a walk.

Fr. Ignatius emphasized that the pandemic is an opportunity to reignite a neglected prayer life. He suggested students might pray the Liturgy of the Hours, or spend time reading scripture. He also pointed to resources from groups like FOCUS, which have made spiritual resources available online.

Nguyen, the FOCUS missionary, also stressed the importance of reinvigorating a prayer life, noting that too much free-time can become its own kind distraction from prayer. He said during these difficult times, it is important to rely on the Lord.

“I think the notion of free time is a little scary because [in] school they have all these activities and they have classes and they have their  sacramental life ….It's scheduled out and so there's a certain safety and security in order that we as Catholics know is there,” Nguyen told CNA.

“If we're in the crucible right now with the Lord, the one thing that will help sustain us is daily conversation and prayer with him.”

Nguyen pointed to some of the virtual options the students have available for them at Harvard. He said FOCUS at the university has started online events, including Bible studies and virtual praise and worship sessions, which last Sunday drew around 200 hundreds views from students.

“We believe the word of God is so effective, especially in this trying time. I think … people are kind of longing for a sense of spiritual nourishment,” he said.

While FOCUS has launched its discipleship program online as well, he said, the most important aspect is to focus on accountability and personal investment through consistent contact with these students, Nguyen said..

“In this time, we're still doing virtual things in order to continue to minister to our students who we encourage to their friends through the use of Zoom and in conversation on the phone, et cetera… Personal investment is probably the most important thing that we can be doing right now,” he said.

 

Indian bishop condemns 'shocking' disinfectant spray of migrant workers

CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- A bishop in India has condemned the spraying of migrant workers and their children with disinfectant, after a video posted to Twitter showed public health authorities doing exactly that.

The video was posted to Twitter Sunday. The Times of India reported that families at a bus stand in the northern Indian city of Bareilly were told to sit on the ground, and were then sprayed with a bleaching agent mixed with water.



In the video, parents and their children sat on the streets of Bareilly and are showered with a chemical solution of chlorine mixed with water. Men in hazmat suits can be heard telling the migrants to close their eyes and mouths.

Bishop Ignatius D’Souza of Bareilly said spraying migrant workers with disinfectant was inhumane.

"This is inhuman, because these people are poor and marginalized and desperate our migrants labourers and their families. Their dignity cannot be violated in this inhuman and shocking manner,” the bishop said, according to Asia News.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi placed the country on lockdown as cases of COVID-19 in India have reached 1,251. The lockdown has closed down borders and forced migrant workers in India’s largest cities to return home to their villages.

Ashok Gautam, an officer in charge of COVID-19 operations in northern India, told CNN that as many as 5,000 people have been similarly disinfected before being allowed to return home.

"We sprayed them here as part of the disinfection drive, we don't want them to be carriers for the virus and it could be hanging on their clothes, now all borders have been sealed so this won't happen again," he said.

Other government officials said the disinfectant was really meant for the buses and that the incident was a mistake. Lav Agarwal, an official of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said Monday that workers involved in the incidents have been reprimanded.

"This is an overzealous action done by some employees at the field level, either out of ignorance or fear," he said, according to CNN.

D’Souza emphasized the difficulties facing vulnerable people returning to their home villages, noting that the Church in Bareilly has been distributing food packets to those who arrive. He said they have delivered these packages to displaced people located at bus and train stations.

The bishop added that wealthy and well-known people with with COVID-19 have been treated differently than poor people in India, according to Asia News. He said everyone needs to be treated with human dignity.

“Each person has to be treated with human dignity, the celebrities who tested positive in India (who travelled to Lucknow), received best treatment, our poor people do not deserve this indignity, it's an affront against the dignity of the human person."

Texas coronavirus abortion rule back in effect, after court grants stay

CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A Texas order prohibiting most abortions during the novel coronavirus pandemic is temporarily back in effect, after the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put a stay on a federal district court ruling on Tuesday.

After the Western District Court of Texas on Monday allowed elective abortions to continue in the state of Texas during the coronavirus pandemic through a restraining order, a three-judge panel on the Fifth Circuit issued the temporary stay on the district court’s ruling on Tuesday.

“UPDATE: Victory at 5th Circuit - Abortion ruling stayed!” tweeted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the result.

Paxton had previously filed for appellate review at the Fifth Circuit, after the Western District Court of Texas on Monday halted the state’s executive order from going into effect that would have restricted most abortions during the new coronavirus pandemic.

The stay issued by the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday will give the court more time to consider Texas’ executive order, the judges wrote. 

However, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck saw the circuit court’s decision as a sign that the case will soon make its way to the Supreme Court. In 2018, the Fifth Circuit Court decided in favor of Louisiana’s abortion safety regulations, which require that an abortion doctor have admitting privilges at a nearby hospital. That case is now being considered by the Supreme Court.

Circuit court judge James Dennis dissented from the panel’s ruling, noting that “[a] federal judge has already concluded that irreparable harm would flow from allowing the Executive Order to prohibit abortions during this critical time.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued the executive order (GA 09) on March 22 halting non-essential surgeries and medical procedures during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in order to free up resources and medical personnel to treat COVID patients.

Abbott clarified that the order would apply to “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, filed an emergency lawsuit in a federal district court to continue elective abortions in Texas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the court granted a temporary restraining order to allow abortions to continue. Federal judges in Ohio and Alabama also halted similar state restrictions on elective abortions from going into effect.

Paxton then filed for appellate review at the Fifth Circuit court on Monday. He said in his petition to the Fifth Circuit that the district court’s decision “endangers lives and hinders the State of Texas’s efforts to combat the deadly novel coronavirus.”

“The State of Texas faces today its most serious public-health emergency in over a century,” he wrote, noting that the executive order halting non-essential surgeries and procedures was meant to conserve “personal protective equipment (PPE)” for the expected surge in new coronavirus patients at hospitals.

“Exempting abortions from the three-week pause that applies to everyone else would deplete scarce PPE, reduce hospital capacity, and risk spreading COVID-19 to hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals across the State,” he wrote.

English bishop 'shocked' by permission for at-home medical abortions

London, England, Mar 31, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The British government’s plans to allow women to have early abortions at home without medical supervision during the coronavirus crisis will “further endanger women”, a bishop has said.

Bishop John Sherrington said he was “shocked” by the move, which the government had first announced, then quickly rescinded, before introducing once again.

Bishop Sherrington, the English and Welsh bishops’ spokesman on life issues, said: “We understand why the government wishes to keep women away from hospital at this time but are shocked to hear that the Secretary of State for Health plans to introduce temporary measures to allow telemedicine and early DIY abortion at home without any medical supervision present.”

He continued: “These measures fundamentally change access to abortion in England and Wales for the foreseeable future. Whilst these are emergency times, these measures further endanger women who, for example, are rushed into decisions by abusive partners and act without any proper consultation.”

“They diminish the seriousness with which these decisions should be taken and the physical and psychological dangers of the administration of these drugs at home.”

A medical abortion, sometimes called a chemical abortion, is a two-step process that involves the ingestion of mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone blocks the effects of the progesterone hormone, inducing a miscarriage. Misoprostol is taken up to two days later, and induces labor.

Women in Britain are already allowed to take the second drug at home, after ingesting the first at a medical clinic and after obtaining the approval of two doctors, as required by law.

Bishop Sherrington accused the government of contradicting itself over whether it was “essential” for women to attend a clinic.

He said: “On Monday Lord Bethell (Health Minister) said ‘We believe it is an essential safeguard that a woman attends a clinic to ensure that they can be seen alone’. Why is it no longer essential? Why was it not discussed in Parliament between Monday and Wednesday?”

The Westminster auxiliary bishop urged officials to publish a time limit on the measure as it had for other emergency legislation.

“Along with all those who cherish and uphold the value of human life, the Church will be vigilant to see that these measures, if introduced, are rescinded as soon as possible so that the present, albeit unsatisfactory, law is followed,” he said.

ADF International, a faith-based legal advocacy organization, described the new measures as the most significant change to abortion in England since the practice was legalized in 1967.

Robert Clarke, ADF International’s deputy director, commented: “Exposing vulnerable women to home abortions is a decision which has been taken much too lightly by the government.

“This exception to the abortion law could have a long-lasting effect on how abortion is handled in the United Kingdom, leaving those who are most vulnerable at most risk. If abortion providers thought the law needed changing, there are proper and democratic ways to approach this.”

 

Church in Mexico calls for national day of penance

CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Mexico have designated April 3, the Friday of Passion Week, as a National Day of Penance amid the spread of the coronavirus. The day is also the commemoration of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to the Code of Canon Law, every Friday of the whole year is a penitential day.

The Mexican bishops’ liturgical commission made the announcement in a statement released March 29, calling for fasting and online participation in a penitential Holy Hour. “In the light of the Word of God which calls us to conversion, we will make together an act of perfect contrition,” the commission also noted.

The Mexican bishops referenced the March 20 note from the Apostolic Penitentiary which explains that “where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God, beloved above all things, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is at present able to express) and accompanied by votum confessionis, that is, by the firm resolution to have recourse, as soon as possible, to sacramental confession, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones.”

The prelates asked the faithful to “pray presenting ourselves before the Lord and pleading him for his help, he who is our intercessor before the Father in the grave contingency that we are suffering, with an attitude of humility and confidence, asking him for forgiveness of our sins, that he may obtain for us the spiritual and bodily health that all peoples need.”

“The Church calls us at this time of Lent to conversion, penance and to be reconciled with God and our brothers,” the bishops stated.

They also called the faithful to join their sufferings to Christ, perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy, pray the Stations of the Cross and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and for devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows.

Mexico’s deputy secretary of health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell Ramirez, reported in a March 30 tweet that the Ministry of Health has recorded 1,094 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 28 deaths in the country.

Majority of Americans praying for end to coronavirus, survey finds

CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A majority of Americans say they have prayed for an end to the novel coronavirus, including some who say they rarely or never pray, a new survey reports.

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, published on Monday, 55% of Americans have prayed for an end to the pandemic, including slightly more than two-thirds (68%) of Catholics.

The survey of 11,537 U.S. adults was conducted between March 19 and 24, and asked Americans about their attitudes during the coronavirus outbreak, including their prayer life.

There are more than 823,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, including more than 175,000 cases in the U.S.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there were 2,860 deaths from the virus as of 4 p.m. EDT Monday.

According to the survey, 15% of those who “seldom or never pray” also say they have prayed for an end to the pandemic, and even 36% of those whose religion is “nothing in particular” say they have prayed about the virus.

In line with stay-at-home orders active in many places, the Pew survey also found fewer people are attending religious services in person; 59% of those who normally attend services at least once or twice per month said they had scaled back their attendence. But, among the same group, a simialry percentage —57%—reported watching religious services online or on TV during the pandemic instead of attending services in person.

And among Catholics who attended Mass at least once or twice a month, 55% said they have attended less often during the coronavirus, and 46% said they were watching Mass online or on TV instead of attending in person.

Catholic bishops around the country began suspending public masses in March, with the Seattle archdiocese as the first to do so on March 11, followed by all other dioceses in the U.S.

As bishops have halted public Masses during the pandemic, however, they have also exhorted Catholics to deepen their own prayer lives.

Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated on March 13 that “[n]ow is the time to intensify our prayers and sacrifices for the love of God and the love of our neighbor,” and called on Catholics to pray in unity with Pope Francis for the sick, health care workers, and civic leaders.

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh issued a pastoral letter on March 20 “The Other Side of Corona,” noting that the mass closures of offices and schools, mass layoffs and the suspension of public Masses as a result of the coronavirus “is an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Jesus.” He called on Catholics to pray to God for protection from the virus and for comfort for all those afflicted.

Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia asked Catholics to join Pope Francis in prayer for an end to the pandemic on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation.

On March 27, Pope Francis gave an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing, “to the city and the world,” from St. Peter’s Basilica during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love,” Pope Francis said during a holy hour that included Eucharistic adoration and the blessing.