Yesterday, the Director of the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis had decided that his 7:00 morning Mass would be broadcast in these days.

This morning, Pope Francis introduced the liturgy saying: “In these days, I will offer Mass for those who are sick from the coronavirus epidemic, for the doctors, nurses, volunteers who are helping them, for their families, for the elderly in nursing homes, for prisoners”.

He then asked everyone to “pray together this week” the words of the entrance antiphon: “Redeem me, O Lord, and have mercy on me. My foot stands on level ground; I will bless the Lord in the assembly”.

The Pope then reflected on the first reading of the Second Monday of Lent from the Book of the Prophet Daniel (9:4-10). He characterized it as a “confession of sin”.

The people recognized that they had sinned. ‘We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land.’ This is a confession of sin, a recognition that we have sinned.

Preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Pope Francis went on to describe that “when we prepare ourselves to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we have to do what is called an ‘examination of conscience’”.

He then differentiated between a list of sins done on an intellectual level and the heartfelt recognition of sin.

It is not correct, the Pope said:

to make a list of sins in the mind, to say ‘I’ve sinned’, then say them to the priest and then the priest forgives me. That’s like drawing up a to-do list or things I need to have or what I’ve done wrong. This remains in the mind. A true confession of sins must remain in the heart.

Moving from the mind to the heart

The Pope invites us to take a step forward so that we confess our “misery, but from the heart…. This is what Daniel, the Prophet, did: ‘Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced’”.

When I realize that I have sinned, that I haven’t prayed well, and I feel this in my heart, a sense of shame comes to us… Being ashamed of our sins as a grace we need to ask for. A person who has lost a sense of shame has lost a sense of moral judgement, has lost respect for others. The same thing regarding God…. ‘O LORD, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you. But yours, O Lord, our God’, first he said justice, now he said ‘compassion’.

We touch God’s heart

When a sense of shame is added to the memory that we have sinned, “this touches God’s heart”, Pope Francis explained. The sense of shame leads us to experience God’s mercy. Our confessions, then, will not consist in reading a list of sins, but in realizing what we “have done to a God who is so good, so compassionate, so righteous”.

Pope Francis then concluded his homily, saying:

Today, let us ask for the grace of feeling ashamed, of feeling ashamed for our sins. May the Lord grant this grace to all of us.

Vatican ups protection measures

Meanwhile, in an interview with Vatican News, the Deputy Director of the Directorate of Health and Hygiene for Vatican City State gave details of the measures being taken inside Vatican City to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Prof. Andrea Arcangeli also confirmed there are, for the moment, no other cases of coronavirus infection beyond the one identified last Friday.

Prof. Arcangeli, what is the situation regarding Covid-19 inside the Vatican?

So far, only one case has occurred, but it is important to clarify that it was not a resident of Vatican City State or an employee, but a person who had passed through our health and hygiene clinic to undergo medical examinations with a view to being hired.

The next day, when symptoms appeared, he went straight to the Gemelli Hospital where he reported he had been in the Vatican the day before. The Hospital then informed us.

Following this news, we called a night-time emergency meeting with the aim of protecting the people who had been in close contact with him.

We decided to suspend health care activities and to sanitize the environment with the exception, of course, of the medical emergency room and first aid services available to residents and employees of the Vatican.

Vatican City State is very small, everything is concentrated in a small space. How are you dealing with this situation? Are there any particular protocols?

We have been following the situation with the utmost attention since the first outbreak in the Lombardy Region. We have developed operational protocols for our doctors and nurses and have drawn up behavioral guidelines for residents and employees throughout Vatican City State, referring to the protocols developed by the health authorities of the Italian State, updating them as the situation evolves.

As far as the organization of our health services is concerned, we have created a protected route within our first aid service that allows us to filter out people potentially at risk of Covid-19 infection by implementing a dedicated route with the aim of avoiding contact with other people using a mobile first-aid structure, a van parked outside our building.

Can you briefly tell us what practical advice you suggest we follow?

The advice is the same as that which Italian and world health authorities, and doctors specialized in virology and infectious diseases, have been repeating for several days.

Hand washing and disinfection are decisive to prevent infection. Hands must be washed with soap and water for at least 30 seconds, or you can use a hydro-alcoholic antiseptic gel.

Another fundamental aspect is to avoid close contact with people, staying at least one meter away, so avoid crowded places and situations that may encourage close contact, for example inside an elevator.

In addition, we have advised people who experience symptoms like fever and breathing difficulties associated with a dry cough and cold, not to go to the emergency room, but to contact the medical service by telephone and request a home visit.

In this case too, the aim is to avoid situations in which contact with other people could spread the infection.

On Sunday, the Pope recited the Angelus inside the Apostolic Palace, before briefly greeting the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. Instead of the Wednesday General Audience, he will deliver his catechesis live on video…

Again, this was done in full agreement with Italian authorities. The aim is to avoid crowding and close contacts that could inevitably occur at the security checks carried out by the police.

The Holy Father’s message will reach us using the means that technology makes available to us.

The Holy Press Office announced the closure of the Vatican Museums. What about the Vatican pharmacy that serves hundreds of people every day. What measures have been taken to protect customers and staff?

Admissions to the pharmacy have already been restricted and limited for several days in order to prevent too many people being present on the pharmacy premises.

A limitation on the number of people inside the pharmacy has been imposed.

In addition, to protect both our pharmacists and customers, a glass barrier has been erected on the counter to prevent direct contact between pharmacists and customers.

How will the situation change for homeless people who sleep near the Basilica at night?

Basically nothing will change at all. The charity work led by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski will continue to care for them, offering them the possibility to spend the night sheltered from the weather.

In this case too, safety protocols are being respected, ensuring there is greater distance between people and trying to avoid close contact

In addition, as it has been doing every morning for a long time now, our Fire Department sanitizes and cleans the areas where homeless people have spent the night.

They do this every day and will continue to do so, of course.

Will the employees’ canteen and the Vatican supermarket stay open?

For the moment, yes. The supermarket, in particular, is an important service for Vatican residents and therefore remains open.

Again, in this case, similar measures will be taken to control access to the premises of the supermarket and avoid crowding. In practice, many people will exit, and many will be able to enter.

To conclude, could you repeat the best practices?

The best practices are those we have been talking about for many days now, but it is always useful to repeat them: the most important thing is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, which must last at least 20 or 30 seconds, or wash them with a hydro-alcoholic antiseptic gel.

Another fundamental aspect is to maintain a distance from people that is greater than one meter.

We must try to pay a lot of attention to these rules, changing our habits, our style. For example, the gesture of extending your hand is an instinctive one, we could say innate, but we have to control it.

Another example is to use elevators evaluating whether you can maintain the correct distance.

Basically, this is the advice we can repeat.

(Source: Vatican News)

More on the Church and the coronavirus outbreak:

Angelus 8/3: Pope expresses “great apprehension” over “inhuman” situation of Syrian refugees, “closeness” to coronavirus patients

Coronavirus: Pope to stream Angelus Sunday, Audience Wednesday as Vatican expresses “closeness and prayer” for victims

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‘Pope whisperer’ calls on faithful to activate Catholic “antibodies” against populist exploitation of coronavirus scare

French bishop deplores coronavirus fearmongering: “It seems we’ve all lost our minds!”

4/3: Risk prevention or capitulation to fear? Italian Church group head criticises coronavirus Mass cancellations

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.