The Pope’s ‘Robin Hood’, papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, has praised the “care for every life” palpable in citizens’ and authorities’ response to the coronavirus crisis in Italy, as the Bishops in that country have cancelled public Masses until at least April 3.

– “Why the preventative measures? Because we want to live”

Since the arrival of the “unfortunate virus in Italy, the plague, from that very moment, something changed: all of the sudden, we started to care for every life”, Krajewski, known for his untiring work for the poor and less fortunate, said in a homily late last month, as reported by Crux.

“We have become lovers of life: we have ceased to represent the culture of death that John Paul II spoke of”, the cardinal continued.

He was attempting to find a bright side to the COVID-19 crisis, which has now lead to at least 7,375 infections and 366 deaths in Italy in what is the biggest contagion outside the disease’s epicentre in China.

The spread of the virus has also led to a total lockdown in the Lombardy region and in neighbouring provinces, taking in cities such as Parma, Modena, Padua and Venice.

Over 16 million people are now in preventative quarantine and are unable to move freely, under threat of jail time.

But, Krajewski observed, at least in the thick of the crisis “people don’t talk about abortion, or about euthanasia, because everyone is talking for life”.

“We are looking for vaccines, we are taking precautions to guarantee that we can save lives”.

“Everybody is choosing life today, beginning with the media”, the cardinal continued.

“God loves live. He does not want the death of the sinner, he wants for the sinner to convert”.

“We limit our freedom- you cannot leave cities, all meetings are suspended, people in northern Italy don’t go to work”, Krajewski added.

“Why? Because we want to live”.

– Vatican coordinating prevention efforts with Italian authorities

In the meantime, on Sunday, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, issued a statement explaining some of the steps being taken by the Vatican, “in coordination with the measures launched by the Italian authorities… to prevent the spread of COVID-19”.

– Vatican Museums closed

These actions include the precautionary closure of the Vatican Museums; the “Scavi” (Excavations) Office, which organizes visits to the Tomb of St Peter and the Necropolis under the Vatican Basilica; the Museum at Castel Gandolfo; and the museums attached to the Pontifical Basilicas.

They will remain closed until 3 April 2020.

– Italian Bishops suspend public Masses until April 3

The Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) issued a statement on Sunday indicating their compliance with a Decree issued by the Italian Government which suspends “civil and religious ceremonies” throughout the country, also until 3 April.

The Bishops’ Conference notes that the official indication by the government specifically includes public Masses and funerals.

The statement notes that this is a very restrictive measure, “which causes suffering and hardship for Pastors, priests and the faithful”.

Compliance with this decree, they say, “is motivated solely by the desire to do one’s part, to contribute to safeguarding public health at this time”.

– Cardinal Vicar of Rome: churches remain open for personal prayer

In the Diocese of Rome, the Cardinal Vicar, Angelo De Donatis, has issued a degree implementing the decisions of the government.

Specifically, churches within the diocese will remain open for personal prayer, as usual, subject to the conditions indicated by the Italian government; while suspending all communal liturgical celebrations during the next three weeks.

Earlier, Cardinal De Donatis sent a letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, in which he encourages them to approach the extraordinary situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak “with the strength of the faith, the certainty of hope, and the joy of charity”.

He stresses the importance of seeing the situation through the eyes of God, as an opportunity to turn again to Him, “to rediscover what is essential, to recover the taste for prayer”.

– Calls for day of prayer and fasting March 11

In the letter, the Cardinal Vicar calls for all Christians in Rome “to offer a day of prayer and fasting, on Wednesday 11 March 2020, to ask of God help for our city, for Italy, and for the world”.

In particular, he asks for prayers for the sick and for caregivers, “and for our communities, that they might bear witness to faith and hope in this moment”.

(With reporting by Vatican News)

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.