Many of you know Msgr. Charles Pope from his writings in the National Catholic Register and elsewhere. Thursday morning, a deacon friend in Washington alerted me to this news, reported on the website for Msgr. Pope’s parish in Washington, D.C.:
July 28, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
On Monday July 27, 2020, Msgr. Charles Pope self-reported that he has tested positive for COVID-19 virus. He is recuperating and getting better each day. For the next two weeks, he and the other priests and seminarian that live in the rectory will be self-isolating as a precaution. We will be sure to keep you updated.
It is important for everyone to continually monitor their health. Symptoms of COVID-19 include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. Call your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms. Generally, danger is minimal unless you had close contact with Msgr. Pope for 15 minutes or more and masks were not worn. It is important to follow all guidelines provided at this time including wearing masks and practicing social distancing. For more information about symptoms and testing, please use this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/index.html. In addition, the District of Columbia shares important information at the following link: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/ or by telephone at 1-844-796-277.
As a precaution, the Church is being professionally deep cleaned and sanitized this week. We will continue to follow the recommended norms of social distancing, wearing of masks, making hand sanitizer available for all, using alcohol to clean the clergy hands when distributing the Eucharist and sanitizing the pews after each Mass.
Stay tuned for another communication over the next day or two about our plans for Mass.
The rectory office is currently closed until further notice.
Please keep Msgr. Pope in your prayers and know that he is doing the same.
In a recent blog post, Msgr. Pope wrote about COVID-19:
Prudence has its place, but my concern as a pastor and physician of souls is that we are allowing unrelenting fear to drive our response. Until we as the Church confronting the situation and “man up” as Christians should, fear will masquerade as prudence, and folks like me who question whether we’ve gone too far will be called irresponsible and even reprehensible.
For the time being, follow the recommended precautions, but ask yourself, “When will this end, and who will get to decide that?” The Church, and each one of us, has a role to play in ending the fear that this pandemic has set loose. COVID-19 can undoubtedly be a serious illness, but contracting it is far from an automatic death sentence. However, getting sick and even eventually dying is a part of living in this world. Some will call me insensitive for even mentioning this truth, but our parents, grandparents, and more distant ancestors went forth daily into a world that was far more dangerous than anything we have experienced. They lived life, accepting both its blows and its blessings. What about us today? Is God no longer with us? Are sickness and death the worst fate or is crippling fear a far more painful and dehumanizing sentence? Isn’t there more to living than just not dying or not getting sick? Will we as a Church be part of this conversation or will we remain fearfully silent? Will we simply reflect the beliefs and opinions of the current culture, or will we influence it with a theology that insists that suffering and death have meaning and an important role in our lives?
No doubt some readers will think me imprudent, irresponsible, and insensitive. I accept that. But my take is that fear is a far more serious ailment than COVID-19. Life is risky, but there is greater ruin for us if we do not accept it and live anyway. At some point we have to break out of the huddle and run the play. God will be with us.
Three years ago, I stayed overnight at his rectory, when I visited Washington to speak at the diaconal convocation there. He was a gracious and generous host, and a cheerful traveling companion. (He has a beautiful parish church, by the way). Prayers for a swift recovery!