The Holy See Press Office issued a statement on Saturday afternoon, announcing that “With regard to the events of the coming days, the prayer of the Angelus of the Holy Father on Sunday 8 March will take place from the Library of the Apostolic Palace and not in the Square, from the window.

“The prayer will be streamed live by Vatican News and on screens in St. Peter’s Square, and distributed by Vatican Media to the media who request it, so as to allow the participation of the faithful.

“The General Audience on Wednesday, March 11 will be held in the same manner”.

The statement explains that these decisions were made at the request of Italian authorities, and “are necessary in order to avoid the risk of the spread of COVID-19 due to the assembly at the security controls for access to the Square.”

Further, the Press Office says, “in compliance with the provisions of the Directorate of Health and Hygiene of Vatican City State, the participation of the faithful in the Masses in Santa Marta will be suspended until Sunday 15 March. The Holy Father will celebrate the Eucharist privately”.

Vatican expresses “closeness and prayer” for victims

Meanwhile, in a message, the Vatican has invited all to face the coronavirus emergency with seriousness, serenity and courage.

“A person’s life has great value in the eyes of God. If in certain circumstances, something attacks the health and life itself of many persons, and perhaps even our own, we must not feel alone in the face of this enemy.”

This is the assurance that the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life evokes in a message regarding the Covid-19 crisis.

Solidarity and gratitude

“As the Dicastery entrusted by the Holy Father with the pastoral care of the laity, the family and life, we wish to manifest – at this difficult time – to those who have been affected by coronavirus or feel threatened by this viral infection, our closeness, our affection and our prayer for them,” says the message.

The Dicastery thanks doctors, nurses, rescue workers and scientific researchers for the generosity of their dedication, encouraging them to spend their best efforts and intellectual talents donated by God on the current needs.

The Vatican department is inviting all to face this international health emergency with seriousness, serenity and courage, readying themselves also to make some sacrifices in their daily personal lifestyle for the common good.

All called to do their part

Everyone is called to do their part, the Dicastery says, assuring all that we have the protection of God, who watches over each one of us with the love of the Father. 

The Church also wants to be close to every sick person affected by coronavirus, his or her family and friends, healthcare workers caring for the person, and researchers who seek a remedy for this disease.  

Role of families

A special thought is addressed to the families, who are called to accompany their members affected by coronavirus, with love and a great sense of responsibility, or to take care of the elderly who cannot leave home because of the risk of contagion, the weaker ones because of another illness already in progress, and the children who have to stay home from school for health reasons. 

The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life acknowledges that it is particularly burdensome for families living in conditions of poor economic resources and social assistance, and those who risk losing their jobs.

The message emphasizes that in these circumstances, the family can become a resource and a widespread driving force that brings out in each person the sense of responsibility, solidarity, fortitude, prudence, sharing and mutual help amid difficulties. 

Finally, the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life joins Pope Francis, who at the general audience of 26 February expressed his closeness to those who are ill with coronavirus and the healthcare workers who treat them, as well as to the civil authorities and all those who are working to assist patients and stop the contagion.

(Source: Vatican News)

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