How the faithful are coping in northern Italy, via The New York Times:
In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, regional officials canceled the public celebration of Mass throughout much of northern Italy, and upended sacred rituals of Italian life.
Soccer players have held matches in empty stadiums. Milan’s vibrant aperitivo scene has slowed to a halt, and empty trams smell of disinfectant. Ms. Kranzelmayer’s employer, like many in Lombardy, has ordered its staff to work from home, and her children cannot return to school for at least another week.
Amid all that disruption — the uptick in cases and enormous economic damage, including from the application of the United States’ most severe travel warning to Lombardy and Veneto — the loss of church gatherings has shaken a fundamental pillar for the faithful.
Pope Francis has sought in Rome to be close to the sick, even as he shows cold symptoms himself, and church leaders in the north are unhappy about being forced apart from their flocks.
“The difference between participating in the Mass in the church and watching it on TV is like the difference between sitting next to a bonfire that warms up, illuminates, brings joy, and watching a picture of the fire,” Milan’s archbishop, Mario Delpini, said on Sunday as he celebrated a regionally broadcast Mass without congregants inside the crypt of Milan’s empty cathedral.
He acknowledged that assembling could be “not without danger,” but said, “It is painful to celebrate without the people.”
Critics of the closings have argued that the salve of faith, and the clergy’s concrete help, has aided Italians through past epidemics. The Lombardy region’s patron saint, Charles Borromeo, is revered in part for his noble actions during a 1576-1578 plague, they point out.
…Frustration is spreading in the north, where many suggest that politicians and the media have overstated the virus’ threat.
“I’m not an epidemiologist, but do we really find ourselves faced with such a great risk that we renounce our common religious life?” Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic group close to Pope Francis, wrote Saturday in the newspaper La Stampa.
Father Livio Fanzaga, the director of the Catholic radio station Radio Maria, attributed the spread of the virus to Satan and called the epidemic “a warning from the heavens” against materialism.