In West Bengal, the quarantine lasts until June 15. The Chief Minister gives special permission for places of prayer. Catholic churches reopen after 9 weeks of lockdown. The Church of North India also reopened. Temples and mosques remain closed for fear of too many crowds.
Kolkata (AsiaNews) - Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of the city of Kolkata is happy. "All our churches are open for worship and prayer starting today June 1st. Our priests have opened all the churches and exhibit the Blessed Sacrament from 10 to 6 in the afternoon. People can come and worship Jesus in the sacrament. "
The joy of Msgr. D’Souza is understandable: the country has undergone a strict quarantine since 25 March, and the churches were closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Today in Kolkata the churches have reopened,with many restrictions, but temples and mosques are still closed.
In the large country of over 1.3 billion people, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to end lockdown today, but has specified that each Indian state will be able to manage the recovery "progressively" at least until 30 June.
Several states have already reported that the lockdown will continue from them: in West Bengal, until June 15; in Maharashtra, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu until June 30.The reopening of churches in Kolkata (capital of West Bengal) was a favor granted by the city government. "
Msgr. D’Souza says: "I want to express my deep gratitude to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who understood the need to worship and pray for people. She herself once said that walking near her home, which is close to the temple of the goddess Kali (and near the first house of Mother Teresa's nuns), she felt that people had to be allowed to visit places of prayer."
The Church of Northern India - Protestant - also reopens its doors, but without any liturgical service. For now, mosques and temples prefer to remain closed to avoid crowds and too many gatherings.
In any case, the reopening of Catholic churches has some specific limitations: the presence of only 10 people at a time is allowed; everyone must wear protective masks, disinfect their hands and maintain social distancing. Some volunteers make sure that these rules are respected. "People are required to be in prayer only for 10-15 minutes, to allow others to worship and pray. As one person exits, another enters, without groups waiting around the sacred building," the archbishop explains.
He concludes: “My parish priests have told me, that since morning, people have steadily been coming for Adoration, with eyes filled with emotion, some were openly weeping before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. After nearly 9 weeks people without worship and adore Jesus, there was a deep yearning in the hearts of our people for Christ. While they have been following the online services, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament satisfies the longing of man’s souls ".