The Bishop of Portsmouth has encouraged his flock to remain steadfast in prayer during the COVID-19 outbreak, telling Catholics they will remember how they lived this Lent “for many years ahead.”
“As Catholics, we must tackle this crisis with spiritual as well as human resources,” said Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth in a letter to his diocese on Thursday, March 19, the feast of St Joseph.
“Let us work for an end to this scourge. Let us keep our churches open for prayer and offer daily Mass for the Church and the world. Let us proclaim God’s Word, administer the Sacraments and offer pastoral care to God’s people in their need,” he said.
“Indeed, the ministry of prayer at this time is crucial.” Egan instructed his diocese to pray for a “speedy solution” to the virus, as well as for the sick, vulnerable, and workers in the National Health Service.
While many have been left asking “why God in his providence has allowed this pandemic to occur,” Egan said it is clear that “He has given us victory through the death and resurrection of His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and poured into human history the power of the Holy Spirit to guide all things in the right direction.”
Quoting St Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the bishop said: “We know that nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked. … These are the trials by which we triumph by the power of Him who loved us.”
Although Egan ordered the public celebration of liturgy to be suspended until the outbreak passes, he encouraged his priests to keep their parishes open and invite people, in small groups, to come and pray.
Egan offered preemptive thanks to his clergy for their generosity and cooperation during this time, and advised everyone to be “inspired by St Camillus, St Juliana Falconieri, Bl Pier Giorgio and other saints from Church history – not least by the Lord Himself – who cared for the sick and infected, amidst great personal danger and difficulty.”
Lent, said Egan, is “a time of penance, prayer and charity,” adding that “we will remember this Lent and Easter for many years ahead. So let us call on the efficacious prayers and help of St Joseph. Just as he protected the Infant Jesus, Saviour of the World, and his spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary, may he help us now, during this time of emergency.”
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