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Coronavirus and the Catholic Church - here's what's coming
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Coronavirus continues to spread rapidly around the globe. Still hoping to contain the disease, the World Health Organization refuses to declare a pandemic, but warns time is short. As the disease appears likely to break out of containment, it may spread around the world and could also impact the Church. A major outbreak is spreading in Italy.
The Church will be impacted by the spread of the virus. Here's what you need to know.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) The arthritic is as grim as it is simple. The COVID-19 Coronavirus can spread from person to person easily, and before symptoms can be detected. This makes efforts to contain the disease almost futile. It is now just a matter of time before the disease becomes a global pandemic. Still, officials are reticent to declare the disease a pandemic and are hoping to contain the virus. But each day, the numbers of cases grow and new outbreaks are reported.
It is time to prepare, and to consider how this disease will impact our lives. As Catholics, the spreading disease will impact our Church and our parish communities.
Here are the basics. What we call Coronavius is a germ called COVID-19. Cornaviruses are a family of infectious viruses that can often spread easily and even jump between animals and humans. COVID-19 is a strain of coronavirus. It causes mild cold symptoms in about 80 percent of the people it infects. About five percent require hospitalization with somewhere between one and three percent dying from the disease. So far, the victims tend to be elderly. The highly-infectious disease can spread before symptoms appear. New cases are reported daily with large outbreaks developing in South Korea, Iran, and Italy. The stock market is plunging on reports the disease could have a major, harmful economic impact, especially in Asia.
The best way to prevent COVID-19 infection is to avoid exposure. Good hand washing is extremely effective and is our best defense against the virus while a vaccine is developed.
With the disease spreading in Italy and parish priests obligated by duty to tend to the sick, it is likely the disease will infect members of the clergy, and could spread to Rome itself. While everyone is in danger, should the disease spread, the clergy of the Church will be especially in danger due to their proximity to the sick. The disease could ravage the upper ranks of the Church.
In addition, parish communities around the world will notice the impacts. On one hand, Churches may fill up with people praying for deliverance from pestilence. However, once an infection takes root in a community, parish attendance may collapse as people avoid public places.
Parish churches need to act now to provide hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and necessary sanitary supplies. Missalettes and other commonly used items should be sanitized before and after each use. Doorknobs, handles and other items may be mediums of transmission. Communion of both kinds could also serve to facilitate spread. Church facilities will need to be ventilated and cool air may help reduce the chances of infection.
Where possible, parishes may consider adding Masses to the schedule and asking parishioners to spread out and come at different times to reduce the chances of person-to-person infection. Parishes should also remind people not to come to church when they are ill, and that such obligations are excused in the case of legitimate illness. Yet, the Church must also remind people that it will require support of all kinds as each parish responds to emergent local needs. As parishioners, we may help our parishes by offering donations online or in anticipation of upcoming need.
Church activities will see depressed attendance. Revenues will fall. Meanwhile as people become ill, strain on Church resources may grow.
In general, the Church will see strain on infrastructure, from Catholic hospitals, to missions, to schools, as money slows and demand increases. Strong, courageous, leadership and wise stewardship will be needed.
While Coronavirus itself will actually do little harm, the fear of the disease will become apparent as soon as the outbreak becomes widespread. The Church is threatened more by the reaction to the illness than from the virus itself.
But the Church can begin by preparing parishioners for the eventual spread of the disease. It can provide resources, training, and change how some things are done to minimize complications caused by the fear.
For now, we must pray for an end to this dreaded illness, and we must keep our perspective. Coronavirus is still less deadly than the flu. Nonetheless, public fears and the fact the disease still kills some victims will have a terrible impact on our parish communities.
Let us pray the disease can be halted and cured.
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