For the first time the Shrine at Lourdes (in Southern France) will now be closed to the public. “For the first time in its history, the Shrine will close for some time,” announced the Rector of the Marian Shrine in the French Pyrenees said, as he follows the measures adopted in France to halt the spread of the Coronavirus.
After China, Italy has the highest number of deaths from the virus, and is on a nationwide lockdown. The Vatican has taken various measures, and has closed St. Peter’s Basilica and Square to faithful.
The Pope has been streaming his Angelus and General Audience, done privately, from his papal library.
At a time where public Masses have been cancelled for safety reasons throughout Italy, the Holy Father has opted to have his morning Masses, normally with a small group of faithful, but currently without, streamed on Vatican Media, and available for replay, in order to permit faithful to participate.
While there was a decree to close churches across Rome, there was a reversal the next day, after what seemed to be the Pope’s intervention, following his words cautioning against taking “too drastic measures.”
The decree was modified to permit pastors to discern and decide, according to their conscience, whether to open or not.
When on Sunday afternoon, the Holy Father made a surprise visit to Rome’s Marian Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, and made a pilgrimage from there–through the streets of an empty quarantined Rome – to the church of San Marcello, on Via del Corso, to pray before a miraculous cross, Francis made an implicit endorsement of the need for faithful, when safe, to pray in the Lord’s home …
It should be noted however that according to the law, going to church to pray is not considered one of the reasons deemed necessary, and therefore authorized by authorities, for leaving one’s home at this time.
It was confirmed that Holy Week’s in the Vatican will not be open to the physical presence of the faithful this year, and that the way they will be done, “is under study.”
The Diocese of Rome has put on the TV channel of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, TV2000, a daily Mass at 7pm from the Sanctuary of Divine Love, the rosary daily with president of the Fabric of St. Peter’s, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, at noon daily, and the Holy Father’s morning Mass at 7am.
Across the world measures are being taken. In the US, many major archdioceses have cancelled public Masses, but have made Mass available to the faithful via streaming, including with Cardinal Timothy Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, with Cardinal Sean O’Malley from Boston, and so on.
As the number of cases increased, Europe has begun to take more aggressive strides, similar, but not as severe, as what Italy has implemented.
As of last evening, March 19, 2020, there have been 2,978 deaths in Italy, and these figures are still expected to continue growing.
The United Kingdom has not adopted similar measures against the virus, as much of Europe has, as some of their policymakers believe another approach is better for their nation in the long run.