Bishop of Baghdad, Easter and coronavirus: in empty churches against an invisible enemy
Msgr. Warduni says this is not the time to "be pessimistic", even if the celebrations "are not the same", "solidarity" is required. Chaldean patriarchate issues indications for Holy Week "adapted" to these "exceptional circumstances". In these dark times, "greater unity" between Christians and Muslims.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) - "In the whole history of Christianity there has never been an Easter like this" of closure and isolation, where everything "seems suspended" and "the future is very uncertain" as if in times of the war, refelects Msgr. Shlemon Audish Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.
Speaking to AsiaNews the right-hand-man of the Chaldean patriarch stresses, however, that "we are children of hope" and Christ "once again comes to give us back our lives". In these dark times, adds the prelate, the coronavirus emergency has brought "greater unity" between citizens of different faiths, "between Muslims and Christians".
“The faithful - says Msgr. Warduni - they need this hope to be strengthened, that they can receive the love of Christ and follow the liturgy "even from a distance. This is not the time "to be pessimistic", he adds, even if the celebrations "are not the same" and the possibility of moving or participating in the services is limited. “Many people - says the prelate - think that there is no salvation. Instead, Jesus comes to give his life and this is a source of consolation. We Christians must shout it out loud, we must not be afraid. "
In a note released over the weekend, the Chaldean Patriarch Card Louis Raphael Sako stresses that it is necessary to "adapt" the functions of Holy Week and Easter to these "exceptional circumstances". This year, confirms the cardinal, "we will not be able to celebrate as we used to do in the past" due to the "rapid and unexpected spread" of the new coronavirus. Furthermore, for this last week of Lent "we will continue to celebrate masses in churches, even in the absence of the faithful except for a limited number of people who work inside".
For Palm Sunday the Chaldean Church intends to decorate the places of worship with olive branches. The traditional washing of the feet will not be held on Holy Thursday, while bishops and priests will recite vespers in each parish on Friday, keeping their distance. There will be no faithful in the churches the next day and midnight mass will be held, canceled in the past for security reasons. On Easter Sunday the function of the feast will be accompanied by the sound of bells, as a "sign of shared hope in the fight against the invisible enemy".
Finally, the patriarchate underlines some guidelines, renewing the invitation "to stay at home" and follow the instructions of the government. For confessions one must "make an appointment with the priest, taking all precautions". Families can form small prayer groups, following functions thanks to the internet.
For Holy Thursday, each house can place a photo of the last supper at the center of the table, with flowers and candles, replacing it the next day with a crucifix. "Decorated eggs can be used as a symbol of joy and hope for the Risen Christ", together with prayers for the sick and health workers.
"Entering the churches and seeing them empty - says the auxiliary of Baghdad - is a great pain. However, this is not the time of despair but of solidarity also on an international level ". On the one hand, he notes, "it is necessary to respect the rules but on the other hand, we need to find a new way to fully live our faith, whose center is the resurrection. We must make Christians, but not only, aware that hope is at the center of our actions ".
The coronavirus emergency, finally explains Msgr. Warduni can also be an occasion for renewed unity between Christians and Muslims. "People are heard on television, even Sunni or Shiite Muslim brothers - he confirms - who remember Christ and this is a beautiful fact". Regardless of religious or ethnic background "there is greater awareness of being united against a common threat. We hope - he concludes - that people will feel this hope that comes from the resurrection, to be builders of a new world ".