It has been some time since we were first affected by the coronavirus and the many limitations which it has caused. It is over five weeks since our churches have been closed and we are not able publicly to attend Mass. Just some of the questions we are all asking are, "When will this be over? When can we return to life as usual? Will the summer bring a change? Will the virus rebound?" Unfortunately, it seems that the more that we read, the more we learn and the more that we hear from experts, we realize that we have no certain answers at this time. While, hopefully, restrictions are to be as lifted on a gradual basis as soon as possible, we realize more and more that these will continue to be with us for some time in different forms.
During this pandemic situation, the Bishops of the seven dioceses of Florida continue to have a weekly video conference for at least an hour. We share what is happening in our dioceses and we look to form some type of uniform vision for dealing with the many limitations which are in place. The situation in Florida certainly varies from one county to another. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach are the epicenters here in Florida accounting for about 50% of infections and 50% of the deaths in the state. While all of us wait with great hope for a vaccine, the Bishops very much realize that social distancing will continue to be a part of church life in the coming weeks and months. Difficult decisions will still have to be made regarding how to attend Mass and when that can happen.
A great example and teacher at this time has been our Holy Father, Pope Francis. He has been in the forefront of service through the media and electronic communication in addressing the situation in the context of faith. He has cooperated with all of the necessities of social distancing and has communicated what is essential in this crisis which is nothing less than faith. His motivation is not related to politics but is based solely on the Gospel message of a loving God who takes care of His people. While the Pope daily offers his prayers and speaks in regard to the coronavirus, he takes one day at a time realizing the unique situation in which we find ourselves. While he hopes for a quick resolution of the present situation, he is realistic and understanding that things may not return to normal as soon as possible. In his Mass for Holy Thursday he remarked that if he cannot celebrate the Chrism Mass by Pentecost, it will be postponed until next year. While the Vatican has announced a gradual reactivation of ordinary services beginning in May that have health precautions in place, Pope Francis has canceled his scheduled visit to Lisbon, Portugal in August 2022 for World Youth Day until August 2023, recognizing the need for caution in the global context.
In a recent journal interview on the corona virus, Pope Francis answered many personal questions in an insightful and inspiring manner. He reflected, "I'm living this as a time of great uncertainty. It's time for inventing, for creativity.” He soundly advised, "Take care of the now, for the sake of tomorrow. Always creatively, with a simple creativity, capable of inventing something new each day. Inside the home that is hard to discover, but don't run away, do not take refuge in escapism, which in this time is of no use to you." Above all the Pope stressed, “I’m praying more because I feel I should. And I think of people.” As we face the uncertain future with a great deal of faith and hope, the Pope's words are good ones to keep before us.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
May 1, 2020