Catholic Church responded to plagues with penance, prayers

This vintage photograph is of a statue representing an allegory of the city of Paris imploring heaven to take away the plague during the 1846-1860 cholera pandemic. The woman in the center represents the city, with an elderly man and a youth on either side of her suffering from the disease. (CNS photo/courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum)

By Carol Zimmermann 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although the coronavirus pandemic brings to mind plagues from centuries ago, both with quarantines, fast-spreading diseases and deaths, there is one big difference on the spiritual side: Today’s pandemic is not, save but a lone voice or two, described as God’s punishment on humanity.

As Pope Francis said in his March 27 address and prayer to end the pandemic in St. Peter’s Square: The worldwide coronavirus pandemic is not God’s judgment on humanity, but God’s call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on.

In prayer, he said: “It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”

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Posted in World

European Catholic bishops, aid groups urge cooperation against pandemic

A man gives a box with protective face shields to a nun at a school during the coronavirus pandemic in Ronda, Spain, March 30, 2020. (CNS photo/Jon Nazca, Reuters)

By Jonathan Luxmoore 
Catholic News Service

OXFORD, England (CNS) — The Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union has urged member-states to stop “capitulating to fear and nationalism” during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Catholic aid groups demanded governments commit to a “healthier and more equitable future.”

The Brussels-based COMECE, headed by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, noted the increase in actions of mutual support among European nations but warned EU countries to reaffirm their “shared European responsibility,” by jointly caring for the sick and exchanging medical materials, as well as helping ease “social, economic and financial shocks” and reinforcing international cooperation.

“We gratefully commend the numerous policy actions of mutual support and encourage political decision-makers in the EU and its member-states to continue acting in a determined, transparent, empathic and democratic way.”

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As pandemic grows, a family wishes its essential worker could stay home

Juan Vasquez, a grocery store worker in Uniondale, N.Y., cuddles with his toddler Robert while watching TV at home March 28, 2020. (CNS Photo/courtesy Tanya Granillo de Vasquez)

By Rhina Guidos 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Before Juan Vasquez says goodbye to wife Tanya Granillo de Vasquez and 1-year-old son Robert as he goes off to work each morning, the three gather and then the husband and wife pray.

“Faith is what’s important at this moment,” said wife Tanya. “We give thanks and then we ask for protection … I ask that he (Juan) be returned to us as he left, to come home to a family that waits for him.”

In the age of the coronavirus, grocery store workers, like Juan Vasquez of Uniondale, New York, have become unlikely heroes around the globe, the only lifeline to the outside world for many, and the ones who keep quick access to food and products essential to daily survival — a role that, like agricultural workers, was never celebrated, until a virus brought the world to a halt.

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Posted in U.S.

Pandemic’s economic toll just starting to show for both nation, church

A restaurant in Glendale, Calif., is seen March 18, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

By Mark Pattison 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — After 11 years of U.S. economic growth, the statistics are staggering.

First-time applications for unemployment benefits, which had been hovering in the low 200,000s from week to week, soared to 3.3 million in the March 26 report, then nearly doubled to 6.58 million in the April 2 report. Those two weeks by themselves topped all unemployment benefit filings for the first six months of the “Great Recession” of 2008.

All of the jobs added in the U.S. economy since Donald Trump assumed the presidency in 2017 are now effectively gone. And, depending on whether there’s another round of bad news or some thread of hope to cling to by Wall Street traders, all of the stock market gains since January 2017 are gone, too. And fast.

The March unemployment figures released April 3 go through only March 12 — the day after the National Basketball Association suspended its season, with pro hockey and baseball following suit — at that time the most shocking signal yet that these were new and highly uncertain times.

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Posted in U.S., World

Text: In video, pope greets families at ‘difficult,’ ‘unusual’ time

Dear friends, good evening!

This evening I have the chance to enter your homes in a different way than usual. If you allow me, I would like to have a conversation with you for a few moments, in this time of difficulty and of suffering. I can imagine you in your families, living an unusual life to avoid contagion. I am thinking of the liveliness of children and young people, who cannot go out, attend school, live their lives. I have in my heart all the families, especially those who have a loved one who is sick or who have unfortunately experienced mourning due to the coronavirus or other causes. These days I often think about people who are alone, and for whom it is more difficult to face these moments. Above all I think of the elderly, who are very dear to me.

I cannot forget those who are sick with coronavirus, people who are in hospital. I am aware of the generosity of those who put themselves at risk for the treatment of this pandemic or to guarantee the essential services to society. So many heroes, every day, at every hour! I also remember how many are in financial straits and are worried about work and the future. A thought also goes out to prison inmates, whose pain is compounded by fear of the epidemic, for themselves and their loved ones; I think of the homeless, who do not have a home to protect them.

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Posted in Vatican, World

Sunday Scripture readings, April 5, 2020: Entering Holy Week

The Catholic News Service column, “Speak to Me Lord,” offers reflections on the Sunday Scripture readings. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

April 5,
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Cycle A
1) Is 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
2) Phil 2:6-11
Gospel: Mt 26:14 — 27:66 or 27:11-54

By Jem Sullivan
Catholic News Service

On this Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we enter the holiest of weeks in the church’s liturgical year. This is the high point of the church’s cycle of feasts and fasts during which the mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection unfold as the pattern of our life as Christians. Continue reading

Posted in "Speak to Me Lord", CNS columns

Googling ‘prayer’ has skyrocketed with coronavirus spread, expert says

Google searches for “prayer” have surged worldwide in step with the increasing cases of COVID-19, according to a European researcher. (CNS)

By Carol Glatz 
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) — Google searches for “prayer” have surged worldwide in step with the surge of emerging cases of COVID-19, according to a European researcher.

The rising interest in seeking information about “prayer” on Google “skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when COVID-19 went global,” wrote Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture.

Using Google Trends data on internet searches for “prayer” for 75 countries, she said she found that “search intensity for ‘prayer’ doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.”

The findings were part of a preliminary draft study titled, “In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic,” released online March 30 for public comment. The working paper was to be updated with new data “regularly,” she wrote.

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Posted in Vatican, World