A Spanish priest has invited Catholics desperate for Mass during the COVID-19 pandemic to “become volunteers and give out food and medicine”.

– Response to “give us back the Mass” campaign

Father Ángel García – affectionately known simply as “Padre Ángel” in Spain, where he has built up a reputation for his charity work – made the remarks April 24 to Spanish paper El Plural.

He was responding to a video campaign launched Friday in Spain in which half-a-dozen young people – on the model of initiatives already in place in other countries – called on bishops to “give us back the Mass” and re-establish public services in the wake of new numbers suggesting that authorities are finally starting to flatten the coronavirus curve.

– “There’s a lot more we can do than just pray”

García – founder of the NGO Mensajeros de la Paz (“Messengers of Peace”) and priest of the Madrid church of San Antón, well-known in the Spanish capital for its outreach to the homeless – reminded believers anxious for the return of public services that they can always follow the Mass online.

García recognised, too, that with regard to the loosening of coronavirus restrictions the Church is one of the many sectors in society that will be forced to reinvent itself, since “there’s a lot of churches where a lot of faithful gather and where the pews will have to be further separated and preventive measures taken”.

However, the well-known Spanish priest added that on COVID-19 “in the Church, without a doubt, there’s a lot more we can do than just pray”.

“These faithful who ask to be able to go to Mass can become volunteers to go buy food and medicine and distribute it to the elderly”, García recalled.

– Suggests ‘Spanish Nobel’ for healthcare workers

As it has in many other countries around the world, getting back to Mass after the coronavirus has become a political cause célèbre in Spain.

There’s been no shortage of priests who have criticised the authorities for their handling of the pandemic, even in televised Masses.

Other priests, for their part, have taken to social networks to demand that the government apologise for its “disastrous” lack of foresight in being able to predict a pandemic that caught the whole world by surprise.

Or to share theories such as “the coronavirus is only contagious if you stick your fingers in your mouth”.

For one priest of the diocese of Cuenca, today the “excuse” for banning Mass and “persecuting” the Church is the coronavirus, but “tomorrow it will be because of the rain, and the next day because of what a neighbour says, and after that because of what the authorities say when they forbid us [from holding Mass], as the police are doing now with forced entries [into churches] and the abuse of authority”.

But beyond all the fireworks and the conspiracy theories of other priests, Father Ángel García proposed not only that all those Catholics hungry for Mass get their hands dirty by volunteering.

He also suggested that the ‘Spanish Nobel’ – the Princess of Asturias Award for Concord – be given to healthcare workers on the frontline against COVID-19, to workers in nursing homes, and also to the members of the inter-party parliamentary commission working to overcome the coronavirus disaster in Spain.

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