Several Catholic dioceses in northern Italy have suspended Mass and other activities this week to help contain the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus.
The northern regions of Italy saw a dramatic uptick in coronavirus cases over the weekend, prompting some regions to suspend all events or gatherings of any form, in public or private.
In response to the outbreak, dioceses in the area have taken various measures, including cancelling Masses and asking Catholics to receive the Eucharist only in the hand.
The Archdiocese of Milan suspended Masses beginning in the evening Feb. 23 until further notice. The Milan Cathedral has also been closed to tourists Feb. 24 and 25.
In Venice, Patriarch of Venice Archbishop Francesco Moraglia suspended Masses and other liturgical celebrations including baptisms and Stations of the Cross, until Sunday March 1.
Moraglia invited the faithful to “dedicate a convenient time to prayer and meditation” in place of Mass on Ash Wednesday.
The Italian bishops’ conference released a statement Feb. 24 in which they said they renew Pope Francis’ prayer of closeness to those affected by the virus and their families; prayer for doctors and nurses from healthcare facilities, called to face this emergency at the frontier; prayer for those responsible for taking precautionary and restrictive measures.”
The bishops also said they are committed to doing their part “to reduce bewilderment and fears.”
“This is the time to find reasons for pragmatism, trust, and hope, which allow us to face this difficult situation together,” they said.
Earlier today, the C.D.C. said Americans need to be prepared for what may be coming:
Top U.S. public health officials said Tuesday that Americans should prepare for the spread of the coronavirus in communities across the country.
“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the head of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a media briefing Tuesday.
The CDC said that Americans should prepare for the possibility of disruptions to their daily lives if the virus were to start spreading in the U.S. That could include school closings, working from home and delaying elective medical procedures.
“We should all be dusting off our pandemic preparedness plans and rehearse them very quickly,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, said. “The core concept is social distancing.”
Business leaders, Schaffner said, should start considering which employees could work from home. Perhaps the time will come, he and other experts said, to observe religious practices and ceremony at home, rather than attending larger community gatherings at places of worship. And families should start asking themselves how they would handle a week or two at home, without travel even short distances for food, medicine or entertainment.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us…