Weddings and funerals are also suspended until further notice. Weekday Masses will continue as fewer people attend them. The faithful are asked to sit in church and not shake hands. For priest in the capital, measures are designed to contain the contagion. Card Sako offers a “special prayer” to God the Father and Mary.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – After the first outbreak of the new coronavirus in Iraq, the leaders of the Chaldean Patriarchate have tightened the guidelines about Mass and other celebrations they laid out a few days ago.
“Given the number of new cases in Baghdad and in other cities, we recommend, as a precautionary measure, to suspend weddings, funerals and Sunday Mass services,” said the Patriarchate in a statement.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Madyan Shamil, assistant parish priest in Baghdad’s St Joseph Cathedral, said that cases reported in the capital and other cities are "cause for concern" and the measures are meant to contain the contagion.
In light of the situation, "Patriarch Sako decided to stop Sunday Masses" even if "some priests" wanted to continue,” he said. Hence, as “more dangerous conditions have occurred”, we want to boost praying.
In Baghdad the faithful are not surprised by the measure. Most are in favour, as evinced by what some have posted on the Patriarchate’s social media.
"Well done," writes Nura M. George. Precautionary measures should remain in effect "as long as this ordeal isn’t over.” Waleed Naser Elia agrees. “This is the right choice". So does Majida Yacoub who calls it a “necessary step” for the good of the community.
Fr Shamil notes that when there was a plague outbreak in Kirkuk and Nineveh in 581 AD, at the time of patriarch Ezekiel, the bishops of the two cities decided to "pray and fast with the faithful” to ask God to end the epidemic, which happened. “Since that time, we conduct ‘Bautha’, a supplication, three days of fasting and praying”.
Some people fear illness but “rely on the Lord” following Psalm 91:6: "Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon.” The patriarch knows he is "a father" and responsible for the health, both physical and spiritual, of the faithful.
The sense of responsibility applies to all churches and places of worship in the capital "until further notice,” says the Patriarchate's statement.
Hopefully, the bishops in Iraq’s other dioceses will also comply with the directive designed to stop the spreading the new coronavirus, which has affected 26 people so far according to official sources. For their part, Iraqi authorities have suspended schools, universities and public gatherings.
Daily Masses continue because they have fewer worshippers. But those that do attend are advised to “sit down and not shake hands" as the sign of peace.
“We are in a state of uncertainty about what preventive supplies we have [to cope with the crisis] and about the effective ways to contain the virus,” the statement goes on to say.
On this occasion, “we invite our believers to pray at home” so that this epidemic can end as soon as possible. To this end, the Chaldean patriarchate provided a “preventive prayer” written by Patriarch Louis Sako himself. See below:
O Lord Almighty, our Father and our hope / You know that we are going through such difficult and dangerous conditions / as the coronavirus is threatening the lives of human beings around the world / in addition to other political, economic and social difficulties that hurt and disturb every one of us.
Please Lord, do not leave us alone facing all these risks that intimidate our lives. Stay with us, Lord, and protect us, our loved ones and all human beings from all harm.
O Lord, grant us your fatherly care / protect us from the “coronavirus and other fatal diseases / keep us safe and bless our health
Grant our country the blessings of peace, security and stability / because You are our only refuge.
O Mary our mother / we are seeking your motherly protection / at this difficult time as always / Please do not forget us, because you are our loving mother. Amen.