During a time when millions worldwide are facing isolation on account of the new coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis used his morning Mass on March 16 to offer comfort to the afflicted.
“I am thinking of the families under lockdown, children who aren’t going to school, parents who cannot leave the house, some who are in quarantine,” Catholic News Service (CNS) cites him as saying.
“May the Lord help them discover new ways, new expressions of love, of living together in this new situation,” Pope Francis said.
“It is a wonderful occasion for rediscovering true affection with creativity in the family. Let us pray for families so that relationships in the family at this time always thrive for the good.”
Pope Francis also used his homily to remind people that God acts in ways both big and small, and not to discount or even scorn the simple ways in which his will is made manifest.
“Our God lets us understand that he always operates in simplicity, in the simplicity of the house of Nazareth, in the simplicity of everyday work, in the simplicity of prayer,” the pope said.
The pope warned against “the worldly spirit” that leads people to “vanity and appearances,” causing them to be “scandalized” by God’s simplicity — “the simplicity of the poor.”
“Disdain is an attitude of the arrogant” and spiritually impoverished living with “the illusion of being more than they are,” the pope continued.
“And this disdain always leads to violence, both physical violence and the violence of gossip,” Pope Francis warned.
Meanwhile, in a bid to help contain the new coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican earlier announced that his Holy Weeks and Easter services next month will be held without public participation.
It was not clear how the massive events will be scaled down, but sources said officials were studying ways to hold them in indoor locations, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, with small representative groups attending.
The Holy Week services, which begin on Palm Sunday, lead up to Easter, the most important day of the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar for the world’s 1.3 billion members.
Italy has been hit harder that any other European nation by the new coronavirus pandemic. The country’s death toll from the virus was 2,158 as of March 17, with 27,980 infections recorded.
The pope, the Vatican, and the Church in predominantly Catholic Italy have all been forced to modify centuries of tradition because of the outbreak.
On March 15, the pope left the Vatican unannounced to pray at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and then walked along one of Rome’s main streets to visit St. Marcello Church to pray before a crucifix that was used in a procession when the plague hit Rome in 1522.
A Vatican statement said he prayed for an end to the pandemic and also for the sick, their families and health providers and workers keeping pharmacies and food stores open amid a national lockdown.