“Let us pray, today, for the dead,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday morning, ahead of daily Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican, “for those, who, because of the virus, have lost their lives.”
He continued: “In a special way, I’d like us to pray for the healthcare workers, who have perished in these days: they gave their lives in service to the sick.”
The coronavirus numbers Italy posted for Monday and Tuesday showed increases across the board: from new cases, to deaths, to positive patients recovered. The latest available numbers show 2,989 new cases and 345 deaths between Monday and Tuesday, along with 192 people now free of the virus who had earlier tested positive.
Those numbers are roughly in line with those posted on Monday, and are unsurprising.
The virus has an incubation period of two weeks, during which carriers are asymptomatic. This means that it is still very difficult — practically impossible — to gauge how quickly the virus is spreading. A minimum of two weeks will have to pass before public health authorities can begin to gauge the effectiveness of the social distancing measures the government has imposed.
Situation at a glance
As we turn out of Week One and into Week Two of lockdown here in Rome, life has begun to adopt some regular rhythm. At 6pm, people in cities throughout Italy have been taking to their balconies for a few minutes’ musical interlude. Social media are flooded with short videos of some of the best performances (and some of the worst).
The feast of St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, is this Thursday. The bishops of Italy have invited all the faithful to put a candle in a window and display a white sheet — a traditional Italian way of marking processional routes — and pray the rosary together at 9pm on Thursday evening. The bishops are asking the faithful to pray the luminous mysteries. This journalist can’t recall ever having prayed them before, so this is going to be a new experience for him. The Italian bishops’ Sat 2000 channel will carry the rosary live.
About Rome shortly after 1pm on Tuesday, stores appeared stocked. Lines at grocers and supermarkets continued to be orderly, and morale appeared to remain generally high.
At Mass on Tuesday morning in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis renewed his prayers for the sick and suffering, and especially for the elderly and for those who are alone and lonely in this time of isolation. “I would like us to pray today [Tuesday] for the elderly who are suffering in this moment in a special way,” Pope Francis said, “with a very great interior solitude and sometimes with so much fear.”
Public liturgies remain suspended, as are all public gatherings, but priests throughout the city of Rome and all up and down the peninsula continue to say Mass, with many parishes streaming their celebrations and other devotions.
A Jesuit friend, Prof Nicolas Steeves SJ, reports that he and his confreres in the community at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University are singing their Mass on Sunday, and have daily Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the community chapel — 30 minutes at midday prayer — when they sing the Stella coeli extirpavit, a Marian chant against plague composed by the Poor Clares of Coimbra, Portugal, in the 14th century. They are also reciting the St Michael prayer.
The home front
Here at home, the Altieris report reasonable quiet, and continued high spirits. There have been singing and dancing in the afternoon on every day since Thursday last. Nine-year-old RJA is keeping up schoolwork. When she is not diligently pursuing academic excellence, she is becoming an expert in the 1980s animé volleyball saga Attacker You!, imported from Japan in the 1980s and popular in Italy under the title, Mila e Shiro: due cuori nella pallavolo. She has also defeated her father, CRA, at chess. “Fair and square,” she claims, though CRA was not available for comment.
This journalist can confirm that pyjamas were worn by children and adults past 2pm on more than one day. (This is considered a significant moral victory by some.)
Food stores are holding chéz Altieri, tortillas excepted. There were three 8-packs in store as of Thursday last, which authorities believed was a supply more than sufficient to the week’s need. That was a gross miscalculation.
Residents ERA and RJA having learned that everything tastes better (doused in sour cream and hot sauce and) wrapped in a tortilla, Tuesday morning presented the distinct possibility of a general uprising. There was some complaint of draconian measures being threatened. Official sources declined to comment, but residents agree none were imposed. Urgent resupply was ordered and secured.
Waistlines are expanding.
There was one incident at the weekend involving a ball and a glass, half full of water, on the dining room table. RJA and CRA were in the room when the incident is believed to have occurred, but they report seeing nothing. Decision made by vote to create commission of investigation. Commissioners: RJA and CRA.
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