(Source: CD/Robin Gomes, Vatican News)

Two Conventual Franciscan friars of the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua in Italy tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday and immediately went into a self-imposed quarantine to prevent infecting the rest of the community, said a press release on Friday on the shrine’s online edition of the Messenger of Saint Anthony magazine.

The community said the two members are living this difficult moment with serenity and are sharing in the sufferings of the sick and their families.

They pledge to pray especially for those who are dealing with the contagion, both directly and indirectly, such as healthcare workers, political institutions, law enforcement agencies, volunteers and all who are helping the suffering people.   

The situation of the two friars is in constant evolution and the consequences of the infection cannot be assessed in their entirety at this time, said Fr. Oliviero Svanera, Rector of the Basilica.  

In touch with pilgrims digitally

“We think it is important to continue making our presence felt, even though only through the digital media, to the many people who see in Saint Anthony a friend, whose voice we friars are in a certain sense,” Father Svanera said.  

Earlier on March 12, the Conventual Franciscan friars decided to reduce contact with people in the Basilica to the minimum to curb the spread of the virus. 

The friars have not been visible in the sanctuary for more than a week, except after closing time, so as not to interact even with the employees of the Basilica.

In line with instructions from the Diocese of Padua and the Italian government, confessions and public celebration of the Mass have been suspended. However, Masses are streamed live at 6 pm (Italian time) on the shrine website.

St. Anthony of Padua shrine continues to remain open to the faithful for private prayer to give a message of courage and hope, the community said.

Europe’s shrines

Across Europe, several shrines have been closed or access restricted in line with government directives.

The Marian shrine of Lourdes, in France, closed to the public on March 17. 

At the Marian shrine of Fatima in Portugal, Masses and rosary services are being live-streamed since March 14 without the participation of the faithful.

All but two basement chapels of the Holy Trinity Basilica and the Chapel of the Apparition have been closed to pilgrims.

In Santiago de Compostela, Spain, pilgrims were barred from embracing the statue of St James in the cathedral, which finally closed its doors on March 13 until further notice.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, in central China, in December, the pandemic has infected more than 315,000 people and killed over 13,000 in some 186 countries.

Next on Novena:

Vatican official issues call to fight coronavirus with “antibodies of solidarity”, Lourdes shrine in France shutters for first time in history

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