A Spanish cardinal has denounced the “orchestrated campaigns” for a hasty return to public Masses after COVID-19.
– “We must help governments and pray for them”
Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, Archbishop of the Valencia diocese, spoke out in a pastoral letter April 29 after a video appeared in Spain of Catholics asking their bishops to “give us back the Mass” along the lines of similar initiatives in other countries.
Cañizares reminded those Catholics impatient for the return of public sacramental life that “although we [Christians] are not of this world, we are in the world and we must help in what is just and in the common good; we must help governments and representatives of authority and pray for them”.
To those faithful who haven’t taken to social networks to demand the return of public Masses even before the public health crisis has fully died down, the cardinal cautioned:
“Don’t listen to orchestrated campaigns, which are… sending messages that are in some way reproachful or demanding of the hierarchy of the Church and that instead of opening pathways, close them”.
“Prudence is very necessary at the moment”, the cardinal urged.
– In cancelling public Masses, bishops have done nothing more than “comply with the Law of God”
Cardinal Cañizares’ pastoral letter came one day after the Spanish Prime Minister announced April 28 that public Masses in the country would resume May 11 with “strict protective measures” and with churches at a maximum of a third of their capacity.
If the COVID-19 situation in Spain continues to improve after that date, two weeks later – on May 25 – churches will be permitted to hold public Masses at 50% full, and will then gradually see remaining restrictions lifted as the country returns to a “new normality” from June 8.
Along with chiding those Catholics over-anxious for a return to public Masses, Cardinal Cañizares mounted a spirited defence of the Spanish Bishops’ decision to date to obey the authorities and keep churches open only for individual prayer.
“During the more than forty days of confinement due to the pandemic, the guidelines that the bishops in general and myself here in the diocese of Valencia have been are designed to comply with the Law of God, which in its fifth commandment commands us to save, promote and defend life, preserve it, ours and that of others”, Cañizares explained.
“Is not the first and main commandment to love God above all things and neighbor as ourselves?”, the cardinal asked.
“Is it not the new commandment, that of charity, ‘Love one another as I have loved you’?”
– “Some don’t understand and that makes me suffer even more”
Not only is it God’s command that Catholics look out for the lives of their neighbours during COVID-19, but the reputation of Catholics in the world is also at stake in how they respond to the pandemic, the cardinal went on.
“If there were the slightest case of propagation because of the Church, out of negligence or not, there would be no shortage of voices who would ruthlessly blame us, as Nero blamed the Christians for the fires he caused in Rome”, Cañizares warned.
“As the ‘father’ that I am… nothing tears my heart apart and pierces me more than not being able to give you all… the bread of life”, the cardinal said directly to those critical and Mass-anxious Catholics, justifying his prudence in not returning yet to full public liturgical life as being based “not on fear, but on charity”.
“I think of what a father must be suffering who has lost his job and cannot give his children the food they need… Could there be anything more painful for a father than this, not giving [his children] bread?”, Cañizares asked.
“Please understand me”, he pleaded with the faithful sceptical of the episcopate’s response to the healthcare crisis.
“Some don’t understand and that makes me suffer even more”.