(Source: CD/Vatican News)

The Apostolic Almoner, or head of the Pope’s charity efforts, has addressed the 250 cardinals, prefects and secretaries of Vatican offices, bishops, abbots religious superiors general and pastors of Roman parishes who are members of the “Papal Chapel”, or Capella Papale, inviting them to an act of solidarity during Holy Week.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the liturgical celebrations presided over by the Holy Father during Holy Week will be without the presence of those who, in accordance with the Motu Proprio Pontificalis Domus, make up the Papal Chapel.

“Share in the suffering of those enduring hardship”

Apostolic Almoner, Polish cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who heads the Office of Papal Charities, has written to the members of the Papal Chapel inviting them to make a contribution to a collection, in order “to share in the suffering of those enduring hardship” during the current health emergency in Italy and in the Vatican. 

He described it as a sign of their closeness and special unity with the pontiff, the Bishop of Rome, who “presides over the universal communion of charity” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 13). 

Cardinal Krajewski said that the Holy Father will later decide on the beneficiaries of the money collected. 

Members of the Papal Chapel assist the Pope in his functions as the spiritual head of the Church, especially in ceremonies and liturgies.

Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life denounces 80% of dead in Italy over 70 years old: “The crisis is the result of an abandonment that comes from afar”

In the meantime, the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has called for more help for the elderly during the COVID-19 emergency, denouncing that 80% of the dead in Italy as a result of the virus were over 70 years old and that “the current crisis is the result of a care and therapeutic abandonment that comes from afar”.

In a letter released on their website Tuesday, the Dicastery said, “Our concerns and grateful thoughts go out to [the elderly] today, to return at least a little of that tenderness with which each of us has been accompanied in life, and that the maternal caress of the Church reach each of them”.

Closeness “could mean saving lives”

While noting that the elderly have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, the Dicastery also focuses on the loneliness faced by many older people.

Quoting Pope Francis, the Vatican department said that “loneliness can be a disease, but with charity, closeness, and spiritual comfort we can heal it”.

Loneliness can be an underlying condition that complicates the physical issues that arise from the coronavirus, and for this reason, the Dicastery affirmed that “it is important to do everything possible to remedy this condition of abandonment”.

In the current crisis, the Dicastery continued, “this could mean saving lives”.

“In solitude the coronavirus kills more”

Although social distancing norms sadly make home visits impossible, the Dicastery recognised how people are finding “new and creative forms of presence” in order to be close to their loved ones.

But, it continued, “the gravity of the moment calls all of us to do more”, including praying for the elderly, curing the disease of loneliness, and activating solidarity networks, among other things.

“We must devote new energies to defend the elderly from this storm, just as each of us has been protected and cared for in the small and large storms of our lives”.

“We cannot leave the elderly alone, because in solitude the coronavirus kills more”.

“Saving the elderly is a priority as much as saving another person”

The Dicastery called for “special attention” for those in residential facilities, who “face very difficult situations” despite the devotion and sacrifices of the staff dedicated to their care, including at times the ultimate sacrifice.

“Despite the complexity of the situation we live in, it is necessary to clarify that saving the lives of the elderly who live within residential homes or who are alone or sick, is a priority as much as saving any other person”.

Quoting Pope Francis, the letter said that “the elderly are the present and the tomorrow of the Church”.

“Essential to remain close to those in need, even when it seems useless”

In “the love of many children and grandchildren”, as well as that of assistants and volunteers, the Dicastery said, we can see revived, so to speak, “the compassion of the women who went to the tomb to care for the body of Jesus”.

Like the women at the tomb we may be scared, but, while maintaining necessary safety precautions, we know that we can do no less than continue to live the compassion Jesus taught us.

And “like these women”, the Dicastery explained, “we will soon understand that it was essential to remain close to those in need, even when it seemed dangerous or useless, confident of the words spoken by the angel, inviting us not to be afraid”.

A call to prayer

The Dicastery concluded its letter with a call “to join in prayer for grandparents and elderly around the world”, inviting everyone “to gather around them with our thoughts and prayers, and when possible, let’s act, so that they are not alone”.

‘Tribunal of mercy’ reminds priests: “God does not distance Himself” during pandemic

For his part, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the Vatican’s Major Penitentiary, has written to confessors at Easter in the wake of the pandemic.

Cardinal Piacenza – the head of the Vatican ‘tribunal of mercy’, with oversight over issues relating to the forgiveness of sins in the Church – opened his letter reminding confessors that “mercy does not stop” and “God does not distance Himself”, not least of all during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Piacenza’s letter was published on the website of the Apostolic Penitentiary on 4 April.

The cardinal wrote in respect of the difficulties faced by Christian communities in the light of restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

He noted that social distancing might be necessary for health reasons, but that should not translate into distance from the Church or the sacraments. 

“Mercy does not stop”

Cardinal Piacenza acknowledged that mercy is expressed in the creativity employed by many priests to make pastoral care available to the People of God.

He added that in these times more than ever before, “everyone needs the closeness and caress of Jesus”.

The cardinal noted that mercy expresses itself in the “small gestures of tenderness and love made towards the poorest”.

In that regard, he gave examples of coronavirus sufferers, healthcare workers, the lonely and the homeless.

If the ordinary celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation is not possible, the Cardinal enjoined all confessors not to stop their work of mercy, but rather fulfill the “priestly role as intercessors” conferred on them at ordination.

He invited them “to pray, console, and present souls to God’s divine mercy”.

Call to priests

The cardinal stressed that mercy does not stop even if the sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated without the physical presence of the people.

He noted that salvation flows from the Eucharist which is the source of all grace for the Church and the world.

He called on priests to rediscover the essence of their priestly ministry, and reminded them that priests are ministers of Christ’s work which is “the sacramental implementation of salvation”.

Other expressions of mercy

Cardinal Piacenza noted that mercy expresses itself in every consideration to which the pandemic pushes us.

It is “in the rediscovery of the values which are worth living and dying for: in silence, adoration and prayer, and in the rediscovery of the closeness of others and of God, above all”.

“Mercy does not stop at the celebration of the sacred liturgy”, added the cardinal. Rather, it becomes “lived charity that extends its friendly hand to those who suffer, and the forgiveness of God through priestly ministry”.

Even those who have died are not exempt from mercy, wrote Cardinal Piacenza.

The dead are reached by prayers of suffrage “in the Paschal certainty that with death, relationships are not broken but are transformed, and strengthened into the communion of saints”.

Cardinal Piacenza concluded his letter by entrusting the ministry of reconciliation, and this unique Easter, to the protection of Our Lady.

He prayed that “everyone may be given the new life for which every person yearns”.

Next on Novena:

Francis gives US$750,000 for COVID-19 affected in two-thirds world

“God wants us to get closer to his people”: Spanish priests donate salary to economic victims of COVID-19


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