04/27/2020, 11.37
VATICAN - ITALY
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The prayer to Mary, the coronavirus, the crisis of politics

by Bernardo Cervellera

Pope Francis praises the "domestic Church" and the recitation of the rosary during the month of May, but also asks that masses not be "virtualized". The Italian bishops ask to do their part in the fight against the pandemic by being allowed to re-open churches for celebrations, respecting the necessary safety measures. The need for an ideal that is greater than man and greater unity to defeat the virus. The dangers: the emptiness of politicians, ideological closure, the selfishness of individuals, groups and nations. The example of South Korea.

Rome (AsiaNews) - On April 25, the feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist, Pope Francis issued a letter to all the faithful inviting them to "rediscover the beauty of praying the rosary at home in May".

For the Catholic Church, the month of roses and the time after Easter is traditionally dedicated to devotion to the Mother of God. For the occasion, the pontiff also wrote two prayers to Our Lady, which he invites us to "recite at the end of the Rosary, and which I myself will recite in May, spiritually united with you."

Francis' suggestion comes at the height of the pandemic crisis, while in many families the joy of common prayer, of the "domestic Church" is being rediscovered.

In fact, due to the mandatory quarantine, in many countries - from China to Singapore, from Sri Lanka to Iraq, to ​​Lebanon and also in Italy and in many European countries - families were able to sanctify the holidays only by listening to the mass via streaming, or reciting the rosary together as a family. Although this experience has strengthened the faith of many, the Pope himself - at Mass on April 17 – warned against the risk of  a "virtual [virtualized]" but concrete life of the people of God.

This is also the reason why the Italian bishops have asked their government for greater freedom of worship, making it possible for churches to return to being a meeting place, while guaranteeing social distancing and sanitary disinfection.

One may wonder why the Pope then pushes families still to prayer "at home"? I believe that more than a fear of "virtualizing", the pontiff feels the need for an impulse of faith in people so they can perceive themselves as more united. Reciting the rosary at different latitudes is like rediscovering ourselves gathered under the great mantle of Mary, as the ancients depicted her, one united and undivided humanity. Because in addition to the heroism of many - doctors, nurses, priests, volunteers, ... - if there is something emerging from this epidemic it is a crumbling, the emptiness of politicians, the ideological closure of many, the selfishness of individuals , groups and nations.

The emptiness was revealed early on: not one state was ready to face such an unprecedented pandemic. But, instead of making politicians more humble and encouraging them to tackle problems together, the crisis has become an arena in which to vanquish one’s opponents, with the spectacle of clumsy conflicts that are only equal to the extent to which they contribute to the breakdown in human lives and economic disasters, under the eyes of impotent rulers.

The ideological closure has meant that the face of the coronavirus became a kind of tournament between China and the United States, in which fans flock around their champion, forgiving him everything. So "the rightwing" forgives Donald Trump his blunders and superficialities in facing the epidemic; "The leftwing" forgives China for its silence, dictatorship, violence.

It is striking that 15 democratic figures were arrested in Hong Kong on April 18,   people who shaped the freedom of the territory, and yet the world remained silent. They include Catholic and Christian lawyers and jurists, who risk their faith in social commitment. Yet the Catholic and non-Catholic media - at least in Italy, excluding those of PIME - have kept silent, so as not to "upset China" and to help the victory of the champion they have bet on.

Perhaps because of the quarantine, which forced us to remain closed in our houses, we have all become more ideological, eager to reaffirm our preconceived ideas, without opening our minds to the broader horizon presented by all the elements of reality.

On the other hand, individuals and states have become more selfish. This is demonstrated by the state of neglect with which people who have lost their jobs and their homes and food have been treated because of the pandemic. But even scientists are competing against each other to see who is faster at producing the Covid-19 vaccine, and thus attract more research funds. On the other hand, as is the case with China, the complete map of the virus is hidden to hinder others research.

At the Mass on April 13, Pope Francis wanted to pray for precisely this: "We pray - he said - for the rulers, the scientists, the politicians, who have begun to study to find a way out, the post-pandemic period, this 'after' that has already begun: to find the right way, always in favor of the people, always in favor of the people".

Faced with the disintegration created by the pandemic, we understand why Francis asks us to pray to the Virgin: there is a need to breathe into humanity an ideal greater than oneself and which makes us more humble and helpful. And it is the same reason why the Italian bishops criticize the government's decision to keep the churches closed: the Italian Church wants to make its ideal contribution to the fight against the coronavirus. This is also part of the fight against the effects of Covid-19. It is by no small chance that, in South Korea, churches were reopened yesterday (see photo).

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