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Update: Masses, Stations of the Cross, prayers in livestreams, on YouTube

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The number of Masses, Stations of the Cross, meditations and other devotions being livestreamed by dioceses, parishes and other groups around country continues to grow.

In addition, an online database called "With Your Spirit" -- https://withyourspirit.org -- lists livestreamed Masses around the country and allows Catholics to add Masses and other online services they know of to the database, which has been compiled by Michael Bayer, director of evangelization and adult formation at St. Clement Catholic Church in Chicago, with the help of many volunteers.

Here's a sampling of online liturgies and other devotions around the country:

Eastern Time Zone

Archdiocese of Philadelphia, at least 65 parishes to date are livestreaming daily and Sunday Masses plus other devotions (CatholicPhilly.com is posting a running list): https://catholicphilly.com/2020/03/news/local-news/find-a-mass-livestreamed.

Diocese of Manchester, N.H.: https://www.catholicnh.org/community/outreach/health-care/coronavirus/livestreamed-masses.

Diocese of Portland, Maine: https://portlanddiocese.org/live-streamed-masses

Archdiocese of Boston's CatholicTV Network has daily Mass in English and Spanish (Viewers can watch at any time): https://www.watchthemass.com

Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, offers Mass in seven languages, both live and recorded:
https://dioceseofbrooklyn.org/masses

Diocese of Rochester, New York, live streaming events from Stations of the Cross, Sunday Masses, Palm Sunday, chrism Mass and more: https://www.youtube.com/user/CatholicCourier; viewers also can find livestreams here: https://catholiccourier.com

Ukrainian Catholic Diocese of Stamford, Connecticut: http://www.stamforddio.org

Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh Divine Liturgies: https://www.archpitt.org/divine-liturgies-online

Daily Mass in Armenian rite: http://www.telepacearmenia.it

Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Mass in English and Spanish: http://www.catholiccincinnati.org

Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, daily and Sunday Masses: http://www.columbuscatholic.org

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington: https://www.nationalshrine.org/mass

St. Augustine's, Mother Church of African American Catholics in Washington:
https://saintaugustine-dc.org/live-streamed-mass

Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, resources: https://dioceseofraleigh.org/news/online-spiritual-resources

Diocese of Orlando, Florida: https://www.facebook.com/orlandodiocese

Archdiocese of Miami, online Masses in these languages:
English: https://www.facebook.com/BasilicaSMSS
Spanish: https://www.facebook.com/icchialeah
Creole: 9 a.m. Sunday: https://www.facebook.com/LiveSaintClement

Archdiocese of Detroit:
https://livestream.com/accounts/19963606/events/9038662

Chaldean Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle, Southfield, Michigan:
Live streaming Sunday Masses: www.chaldeanchurch.org/live.
Live streaming daily Masses on our Facebook and YouTube channels. YouTube.com/chaldeandiocese

Central Time Zone

Archdiocese of Milwaukee: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrw_JySXFU94eYPgE_ILokQ

St. John's Abbey, livestream daily 5 p.m.; Saturday: 10:30 a.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m.: https://saintjohnsabbey.org/live

Archdiocese of Chicago Sunday Masses in English, Spanish and Polish (anytime)
https://radiotv.archchicago.org/television/broadcast-masses

Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, Mass in English, Spanish, also rosary
https://dbqarch.org/live-broadcasts

Archdiocese of St. Louis: https://www.archstl.org/live-streamed-and-televised-masses

Archdiocese of New Orleans: https://nolacatholic.org/news/taking-mass-online

Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana: https://www.htdiocese.org/coronavirus-masses

Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, English and Spanish: https://www.archgh.org/onlinemass
Mass in Vietnamese: https://lavangchurch.org

Diocese of Dallas, live and recorded, English and Spanish: https://www.cathdal.org.

Mountain Time Zone

Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Mass in English and Spanish, http://dioceseofcheyenne.org/covid19/

Archdiocese of Denver: https://archden.org/coronavirus/locallivestream

Diocese of Salt Lake City: https://www.dioslc.org

Diocese of Phoenix: https://dphx.org/stayhealthy/tvmass

Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, livestream of Sunday Mass with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades: https://fwsbhealth.weebly.com/mass.html (He also will lead Stations of the Cross April 3)

Pacific Time Zone

Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, Sunday Mass 11 a.m.: https://www.facebook.com/archdpdx

Archdiocese of Seattle, daily Mass 8:30 a.m.: https://vimeo.com/archdioceseofseattle

Archdiocese of San Francisco: https://www.sfarchdiocese.org/livestreams

Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 7 a.m. Spanish; 10 a.m. English: https://lacatholics.org/mass-for-the-homebound

Diocese of San Diego Diocese, English, Spanish, Vietnamese: https://www.sdcatholic.org/find-a-parish/on-line-sunday-mass/#english_mass

Alaska Time Zone

Diocese of Fairbanks, English and Spanish: http://dioceseoffairbanks.org/joomla/index.php/online-mass

Hawaii Time Zone

Diocese of Honolulu: https://hawaiicatholictv.com

Sign Language

https://www.facebook.com/ICDACanadianSection
https://bostondeafcatholic.org


Other Devotions

Stations of the Cross by Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, (anytime, recorded meditations):
https://www.dolr.org/stations-of-the-cross

Meditation/Daily Readings:
https://giveusthisday.org/Digital
https://us.magnificat.net/free
http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm

Oregon Catholic Press:
Resources for parishes: https://www.ocp.org/en-us/blog/entry/resources-for-parishes
Resources for home: https://www.ocp.org/en-us/blog/entry/resources-from-home

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As pandemic grows, a family wishes its essential worker could stay home

IMAGE: CNS Photo/courtesy Tanya Granillo de Vasquez

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Before Juan Vasquez says goodbye to wife Tanya Granillo de Vasquez and 1-year-old son Robert as he goes off to work each morning, the three gather and then the husband and wife pray.

"Faith is what's important at this moment," said wife Tanya. "We give thanks and then we ask for protection ... I ask that he (Juan) be returned to us as he left, to come home to a family that waits for him."

In the age of the coronavirus, grocery store workers, like Juan Vasquez of Uniondale, New York, have become unlikely heroes around the globe, the only lifeline to the outside world for many, and the ones who keep quick access to food and products essential to daily survival -- a role that, like agricultural workers, was never celebrated, until a virus brought the world to a halt.

It was a role that never seemed dangerous -- until the coronavirus arrived.

"They're not just exposing their lives to help other people, but they're also doing their best to not expose (their families)," said Tanya Vasquez in a March 28 WhatsApp audio interview with Catholic News Service.

Because both Vasquezes are Catholic and have a special devotion to Mary, they ask for her intercession, not just to keep the head of the household free of COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, but for the protection of the whole family. Prayer and faith are the only weapons to survive the painful and anxiety-driven day that has become part of their daily routine, Tanya Vasquez said.

"Believe me, I feel as if I'm discriminating (against) him," Tanya Vasquez said. "But it has to be done."

Every night that he returns home from work, she makes him put his shoes inside a bag at the bottom of a stairwell before he walks up to their apartment wearing socks and sends him straight to the shower, putting whatever he's been wearing that day inside another bag that is quickly closed, then he showers for about 30 minutes, Tanya Vasquez said.

"It makes me very sad because our son sometimes waits for him by the window and can see him come home from there," she said. "He jumps up and down when he sees him but now he can't go directly to him, or me. No hug, no kiss. He goes straight to the shower."

It's become almost a somber experience, one filled with worries about bringing the current dangers of the outside world in, and a change from the usual routine for the toddler who's attached to his father, Tanya Vasquez said. But once he's finished taking a long shower, her husband makes every effort to "return to normalcy" with their son and plays or watches TV with him, she said.

"It's a complicated situation and people don't understand that anguish," she said.

It's an anguish that lasts throughout the day. Even his break, an innocuous moment before the virus, now can be a cause for worry, Tanya Vasquez said. Sometimes, small talk includes the details that the market is full of people that day, or her husband tells her that he was nervous because someone touched him, someone got too close and yanked his clothes to ask for the location of a certain product, she said.

Vasquez said she regrets heeding information that authorities gave out early about not getting masks, not hoarding protective material, which she would have bought her husband early on, and it would have lessened her worries. Information, however, kept changing, she said, and as more data came out, materials she could have bought to offer him some form of protection between him and a daily contact with people were sold out.

Luckily, the grocery store where he works offered the workers gloves. And because she knows how to sew, she figured out how to make a mask that he now wears, even though she said it may not offer the protection she would prefer.  

"We said we didn't want to hoard, but we believed what we were being told. That was a mistake," she said. "And then things really got out of control."

Ironically, because her husband works in a market, the two had a discussion about not hoarding food and other materials so that there would be enough for everyone in their community. That, too, worked against them. So, he keeps an eye out for some items that are scarce and picks them up if he sees them on his way home. But they still refuse to hoard, she said.

"That's how it's worked out," she said.

And yet, she stills believes that powerful intercession from above will help the family get through, no matter what the outcome, though the looming fear that he'll contract the virus, and worse, bring it home, is constant.

Economically, the family couldn't survive without his job, she said, a hard reality to gulp down because selfishly she would love nothing more than to see her husband enjoy the time with family, particularly with his son, who would be "overjoyed" to have his father home. Others, however, have that blessing, she said.

"This is very complicated," she said. "To watch other people safe at home while others aren't. To me, people like my husband, and I'm talking about a lot of people, are heroes because they're putting their lives at risk.

"And then there are people out there on the street (for no good reason), without a conscience, while others are forced to leave their families to help," she added. "If they have the blessing to have free time, all I ask is that they realize that during that outing, they could contract that virus and harm others. I ask that they not be selfish and to think of others."

 

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European Catholic bishops, aid groups urge cooperation against pandemic

IMAGE: CNS photo/Yves Herman, Reuters

By Jonathan Luxmoore

OXFORD, England (CNS) -- The Commission of Bishops' Conferences of the European Union has urged member-states to stop "capitulating to fear and nationalism" during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Catholic aid groups demanded governments commit to a "healthier and more equitable future."

The Brussels-based COMECE, headed by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, noted the increase in actions of mutual support among European nations but warned EU countries to reaffirm their "shared European responsibility," by jointly caring for the sick and exchanging medical materials, as well as helping ease "social, economic and financial shocks" and reinforcing international cooperation.

"We gratefully commend the numerous policy actions of mutual support and encourage political decision-makers in the EU and its member-states to continue acting in a determined, transparent, empathic and democratic way."

In an April 2 statement with the non-Catholic Conference of European Churches, COMECE said: "This is the time for all of us to demonstrate our joint commitment to the European project and to common European values of solidarity and unity, instead of capitulating to fear and nationalism."

"Let us regard this time of trial also as a time of grace and hope. Let us remain united and make our closeness felt to all, especially those in need."

European politicians have criticized the EU for lacking coordination against the COVID-19 pandemic, which had caused tens of thousands of deaths across the trading bloc.

In a March 24 Vatican Radio interview, Cardinal Hollerich said solidarity was essential "above all in dramatic moments," and said many EU countries violated Christian values by "blocking their borders and making decisions only for their own people's benefit without regard for others."

Two Vatican pontifical academies also condemned the "selfishness and shortsightedness of uncoordinated national responses" in a March 20 statement and warned against "seeking protection through isolationism."

Meanwhile, the Brussels-based CIDSE, a consortium of Catholic aid groups from Europe and North America, warned that choices being made now would shape society "for years, if not decades, to come."

"This is a time to be decisive in saving lives and bold in charting a path to a genuinely healthier and more equitable future through a just recovery," said the open letter, also signed by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice and more than 200 ecology and human rights groups.

"As decision-makers take steps to ensure immediate relief and long-term recovery, it is imperative they consider the interrelated crises of wealth inequality, racism and ecological decline -- notably the climate crisis -- which were in place long before COVID-19 and now risk being intensified."

The appeal urged governments to "put people's health first" and "provide economic relief directly to the people," as well as creating "millions of decent jobs" and ensuring "resilience for future crises."

"Build solidarity and community across borders -- don't empower authoritarians," the document said. "Assistance directed at specific industries must be channeled to communities and workers, not shareholders or corporate executives."

Caritas Internationalis, made up of 165 Catholic relief, development and social service agencies working in almost 200 countries, was mobilizing to help countries suffering due to the pandemic. Most of the member agencies are relief and development agencies sponsored by national bishops' conferences, such as the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services or Canada's Development and Peace.

In a videoconference with journalists April 3, Aloysius John, secretary general, said that in Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, Caritas has continued operating soup kitchens and shelters for the homeless as well as helping the elderly through a telephone hotline.

He also said similar initiatives were being mobilized in Armenia, Uganda and Ukraine.

Nevertheless, Caritas' "main concern today is to prepare the poorer countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, to confront such massive emergency due to a sudden outbreak of the pandemic," John said.

"The human suffering should unite us," John told journalists. "We have a role to play, and this what we are doing, we are trying to be in solidarity with the church, and we are also getting this message across to the people here, saying that there are also people suffering with this situation. Now we know what suffering means, and I think that should bring us to more solidarity."

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Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves in Rome.

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Slay the Dragon

Pandemic's economic toll just starting to show for both nation, church

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After 11 years of U.S. economic growth, the statistics are staggering.

First-time applications for unemployment benefits, which had been hovering in the low 200,000s from week to week, soared to 3.3 million in the March 26 report, then nearly doubled to 6.58 million in the April 2 report. Those two weeks by themselves topped all unemployment benefit filings for the first six months of the "Great Recession" of 2008.

All of the jobs added in the U.S. economy since Donald Trump assumed the presidency in 2017 are now effectively gone. And, depending on whether there's another round of bad news or some thread of hope to cling to by Wall Street traders, all of the stock market gains since January 2017 are gone, too. And fast.

The March unemployment figures released April 3 go through only March 12 -- the day after the National Basketball Association suspended its season, with pro hockey and baseball following suit -- at that time the most shocking signal yet that these were new and highly uncertain times.

Even so, the climb from a 3.5% unemployment rate in February to 4.4% in March, representing a loss of 701,000 jobs, does not reflect all that has happened in the following weeks: spiking COVID-19 positive tests results -- and death rates; restrictions on public gatherings and the issuance of "stay at home" orders; the closure of shops, stores and restaurants, throwing as-yet-untold numbers of people out of work; and people who do have money having far fewer places, and inclinations, to spend it.

The May jobs report, due May 8, will take into account all that has happened with jobs and the economy into mid-April, said Elise Gould, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute. It also will show which sectors of the economy were hit hardest, as well as the demographic groups affected most severely by the pandemic-related economic stall.

Figures from Washington state, the first epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, while themselves preliminary, give a clue to what the rest of the nation could expect. Three job categories suffered month-to-month double-digit job losses: accommodation and food services, 16.5%; arts, entertainment and recreation, 11.3%; and "other services" outside of public administration, 10.9%.

The $2 trillion stimulus package hammered out by Congress and signed into law by Trump in late March is "not stimulus so much as relief and recovery," Gould said. "What we need to do right now is ease people's pain ... ease people's pain from these job losses."

She added, "People are losing their job and they're not going to be able to put food on the table, this CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, what it does, it expands unemployment insurance so that more people can get it for a more expansive number of reasons related to COVID-19." Gould said more action will need to be taken in Washington to get the country through and past the pandemic.

Clayton Sinyai, executive director of the Catholic Labor Network, said: "It's probably a good generalization" that those who have the least have thus far been hurt the most by the sudden economic upheavals.

For Sinyai, it's personal. "My brother-in-law is a cab driver in Honolulu and is an immigrant. He is trying to figure out how to navigate the system," he said. "It's really challenging for someone who does not have a lot of experience accessing benefits or things like that."

The Catholic Labor Network has been working with food service workers at the airports serving the Washington area. "They've all been furloughed or something similar to that. Restaurants are in the same category," Sinyai said. "Those of us who are able to continue working are disproportionately in white-collar jobs and able to work online and not working with our hands -- and not sitting on our hands and hoping to get the relief Congress and the taxpayers have just offered."

At Georgetown University in Washington, the contractor that employs food service workers sent them home without pay when Georgetown closed the campus. After complaints to university leadership by the union representing those workers and by students, a deal was worked out that paid workers until the end of the term. "That was at some expense to Georgetown itself," said Sinyai, noting the university also had rebated dorm-dwelling students the unused portion of their dorm charges.

In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest diocese, "where we can, we will continue to have folks working," said Annabelle Baltierra, senior director of human resources. "As this continues to go on, we don't have donations coming in, although our bishop (Archbishop Jose H. Gomez) is encouraging, for example, our parishes talking with their donors about continuing, our parents continuing to pay their tuition. Resources will make it doable."

Next steps? "Then we start thinking about reducing staff hours across the board. The bishop encouraged the clergy to set an example and consider taking a cut in their salary," Baltierra said, although they should not go below the minimum wage in doing so. "A last resort," she added, "is to have our employees go on furlough, which would mean they wouldn't have any income, but they would be able to utilize their vacation time until the government passes another emergency bill."

The National Conference on Catechetical Leadership had to call off its annual conference in Dubuque, Iowa, even though its bylaws mandate an annual meeting. "We didn't realize how much the Spirit would force us to look at who we are and how we do things," said executive director Margaret Matijasevic, noting that was part of the conference's theme. "It forced us to do that quicker than we thought."

The future requires a longer-range look than merely rescheduling a meeting, according to Matijasevic.

"What other options we move into, it would be completely shifting our business model," she said. "We really have no measurement of engagement or buy-in for anything that we consider moving into. There will be some loss, some loss of our identity as an organization, which we've already been looking at" as a result of a leadership crisis in the church, she added.

Membership dues are one source of revenue for many national Catholic organizations. For the NCCL, it lost members who were laid off when diocesan and parish revenues were reduced following a fresh wave of revelations of clerical sexual abuse; Matijasevic told Catholic News Service more could be let go if contributions wither during the pandemic. Another revenue source is convention and conference fees. NCCL's convention is over before it began; strike two.

"The other main revenue stream for many Catholic organizations is their investments. That becomes a point of crisis for some of us, as it is for many dioceses," Matijasevic said. "Most nonprofits are using that as their supplemental reserve."

She added, "Now you're in the crisis point where you're losing your main business model, which is based on the parish business model -- and the same thing is happening with many national organizations that have mimicked that model." And if reserves are compromised because of investments in a tailspin, "that's going got hit us tremendously," Matijasevic said.

"We had no concept that COVID-19 would be coming down the pike and force us to refocus who we really are," she added. The challenge comes in "how to be pastoral in that, but taking a good hard look at how we do business," Matijasevic said. "We'd better rethink it."

 

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During plague, Catholic Church waived taxes, other requirements

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy The Walters Art Museum

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Correspondence can reveal a lot about periods of history and the letters written by popes during the Black Death are no exception.

These documents, often responses to questions, provide a window into a long-ago era that is getting renewed attention amid today's coronavirus pandemic.

It turns out at least 206,516 letters were sent from the papal offices in Avignon, France, during the 70 years of the Avignon papacy when seven consecutive popes lived in Avignon instead of Vatican City from 1309 to 1377.

The Black Death was right in the middle of this time period: from 1347 to 1353.

Joelle Rollo-Koster, professor of medieval history at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, spoke to Catholic News Service March 27 after spending a few hours reading through some of these papal correspondences in Latin on a database from the French School of Rome's Research Center, through her university.

She said historians specializing in the 14th century like herself study these letters, written on paper parchment but available online, and when she focused her search on letters that specifically dealt with the plague, she was not disappointed.

These letters, she said, pinpoint the plague's outbreak in Northern Italy because they show the date the letter was sent and the community where it was sent, often in response to grave illnesses or deaths.

When parish priests or bishops died during the plague, for example, a parishioner would write to the pope asking for someone to be in charge. Although this initial letter of request is not available, the response often clearly indicates in very specific details who died, where and when they died and if they were bishops, priests, monks or cloistered sisters.

Rollo-Koster said the letters also reveal the church's "stimulus plan" announcing tax waivers to those who requested it. The church at that time imposed separate taxes from the government, requiring church members to tithe one-tenth of their earned income.

She said the church's economic response to the plague was to redistribute funds, not tax people as much or allow for a deferred payment.

Because there was a clergy shortage with so many people dying, Catholics also wrote letters to popes requesting that married men be allowed to be priests, which was permitted under some circumstances, provided the priest led a chaste life.

Popes also granted waivers for people to marry within families, she said, allowing marriages between second and third cousins.

Letters also reveal indulgences or absolutions of sin for those who died of the plague without receiving last rites -- which at times covered entire cities. Requests for these blessings were written by remaining survivors.

What people don't realize, the historian said, is that there are a lot of documents from the Middle Ages. "We are not in the dark," about this time, she said, "but people don't know how to read" what's available.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Catholic Church responded to plagues with penance, prayers

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although the coronavirus pandemic brings to mind plagues from centuries ago, both with quarantines, fast-spreading diseases and deaths, there is one big difference on the spiritual side: Today's pandemic is not, save but a lone voice or two, described as God's punishment on humanity.

As Pope Francis said in his March 27 address and prayer to end the pandemic in St. Peter's Square: The worldwide coronavirus pandemic is not God's judgment on humanity, but God's call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on.

In prayer, he said: "It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others."

That was not the message the faithful were hearing in the 14th century when the plague known as Black Death swept through most of Europe and parts of the rest of the world only to be followed by waves of recurring plagues.

"There is a negative side of the church's response to the plagues," said Franco Mormando, associate professor of Italian studies at Boston College. He said the consistent message over the centuries was that the "ultimate reason for the plague was God's wrath punishing humanity," which he added: "is not so palatable to us today."

This widespread view had the effect of discouraging research on root causes of these diseases, he said.
It also prompted a continuous view of sinfulness, penitence and not being right with God.

Nicole Archambeau, an assistant professor of history at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, and author of an upcoming book, "Souls Under Siege: Surviving Plague, War, and Confession in the 14th Century," has focused on the witness testimony given during the canonization inquiry of Blessed Delphine of Glandeve in 1363, which gives insight into the world at the time.

She said the remarks demonstrate an overall concern about the sacrament of penance. "Over half of the witnesses expressed anxiety about the state of their souls and a desire to be consoled and assured about their souls."

Archambeau, in an email to Catholic News Service, said these witnesses also spoke about the sacrament of penance as "being ineffective at consolation and assurance," which echoes what was taught at the time, she said, noting that confessors' manuals said "living with perpetual worry about the state of one's soul was normal and even spiritually healthy."

This introspective look at one's sinfulness amid the plague's potential expression of God's fury also led some believers to flagellation -- a more intense form of penitence caused by whipping one's flesh -- which was condemned by the church.

Joelle Rollo-Koster, professor of medieval history at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, said the basic principle at the time was "God is mad at you and to punish you he sends a disease," and the traditional response was a need to atone for sins which during the Black Death was done by prayers, processions through the streets and more suffering.

She pointed out that during the plague there were many liturgical processions, usually around the perimeter of a city, asking for God's protection and demonstrating sorrow for sins.

But amid this overarching sense of penitence, the church also conveyed the sense of gaining merit in the afterlife for their faith in the midst of suffering, Mormando said. The church also reminded people about the "duty of solidarity and service to people in need." He said the church's message on this also was directed to the government, stressing that it had the responsibility to "take care of the poor, the weak and the orphaned."

Once the plagues ended, the historian said, "society shook itself off and continued, more or less as before" without learning moral or economic lessons.

And now, in the midst of this present pandemic, he, like others, is staying at home while teaching courses online. Taking the long view, he said: "Looking back is one way to look at how we are today; hopefully we will forge a better path forward."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

USCCB president calls for national moment of prayer on Good Friday

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Hanna, Reuters

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WASHINGTON -- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has invited U.S. Catholics to join him on Good Friday, April 10, to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart at noon (EDT).

"Praying together as a nation, the archbishop asks that we seek healing for all who are unwell, wisdom for those whose work is halting the spread of coronavirus, and strength for all God's children," said a USCCB news release issued late April 2.

A livestream of the Litany of the Sacred Heart with Archbishop Gomez will be available on the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' website: www.lacatholics.org and on the USCCB Facebook page: www.facebook.com/usccb. The text of Litany of the Sacred Heart can be found in English and Spanish on the Los Angeles archdiocesan website.

Additionally, with special permission received from the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See, a plenary indulgence is available for those who join Archbishop Gomez in praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart on Good Friday.

A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due to sins and may be applied to oneself or to the souls of the deceased (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1471).

To receive this indulgence, the faithful would need to: pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart on Good Friday; be truly repentant of any sins they have committed and receive the sacrament of reconciliation (at the earliest opportunity); and pray for Pope Francis' intentions.

"Good Friday is a day when Christians around the world solemnly commemorate the day when Jesus suffered and died on the cross. Catholics traditionally mark the day with fasting, penance and reflection on Jesus' loving sacrifice," the USCCB release said.

"This opportunity to pray together during the coronavirus pandemic offers a special moment of unity for the faithful during a time when communities throughout the United States and worldwide are physically unable to congregate for Holy Week and Easter because of COVID-19," it added.

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Googling 'prayer' has skyrocketed with coronavirus spread, expert says

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By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- Google searches for "prayer" have surged worldwide in step with the surge of emerging cases of COVID-19, according to a European researcher.

The rising interest in seeking information about "prayer" on Google "skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when COVID-19 went global," wrote Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture.

Using Google Trends data on internet searches for "prayer" for 75 countries, she said she found that "search intensity for 'prayer' doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19."

The findings were part of a preliminary draft study titled, "In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic," released online March 30 for public comment. The working paper was to be updated with new data "regularly," she wrote.

Bentzen, who authored a paper in 2019 looking at the impact natural disasters had on "religiosity," said she wanted to study whether the COVID-19 crisis was impacting "one of the deepest rooted of human behaviors -- religion."

Specifically, she said she wanted to know whether the pandemic "has intensified the use of religion" globally, given that the coronavirus has affected more than 200 countries to date.

The data-timeline showing "search intensity on 'prayer' is flat before a country registers its first case of COVID-19," and then drastically rises after the first case is registered in a country for all regions of the world, including Muslim majority nations, she wrote.

"The increases in prayer intensity documented here are the largest the world has experienced since 2004, the earliest date for which the Google Trends data is available," she wrote. Google Trends measures keyword searches as a share of all total searches so any increase in internet activity doesn't skew the data.

Bentzen concludes that "we humans have a tendency to use religion to cope with crisis. The COVID-19 has proven no exception."

"The rise in prayer intensity supersedes what the world has seen for years" and may likely continue to rise as the crisis worsens, she added.

In response to Bentzen's request for comments, some researchers cautioned against her assumption that "an increased share of Google searches for religious terms thus reveals an increased demand for religion."

One U.S. professor of sociology said the data only proved that more people were googling "prayer" and, without knowing people's motives or background, it was not necessarily evidence of "an increase in religiosity." The searches could "very well be the people who would normally have attended religious services but now can't," so rather than representing a net increase in a "demand for religion," it may reflect a growing need to access resources and services online.

But whatever the motives or reasons for the surge in searches, the online demand is real and massive with some Catholic outlets already responding to the huge increases they have seen on their own platforms.

James L. Rogers, chief communications officer at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service that, as of March 23, "mentions for the USCCB on Twitter increased 2,783% and the number of Facebook followers increased 172%, the second straight week of triple digit increases."

"Correspondingly, the number of incoming messages to our Facebook account increased 177%. Many of the messages were prayer requests or advice on prayers," he wrote by email April 3.

Rogers said it made him think of the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family "and how prophetic its focus on the domestic church now seems."

"Practical advice for how best to start or strengthen the prayer space in your own home does seem to me to be driving a lot of the traffic. That's why our social media has tried to focus on simple ideas that anyone could try to get them started," he added.

John Grosso, director of digital media at the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut -- one of many states with active stay-at-home executive orders -- told CNS by email he has seen "an online tidal wave of new social media followers, website views, email newsletter sign up, video views and podcast listeners."

There are a lot of "new names" appearing on their social media and he is hearing from new people, he wrote.

"I am anecdotally hearing many stories from people who said they have not been in church, to church or connected with their church in some time, but something about this pandemic drew them in," he added.

Responding to the Bentzen research, he said just because the word "prayer" is being searched more does not mean that people are "behaving" more religiously.

However, "online traffic is most certainly up in religious circles. Whether that is because we cannot meet in person, or because we are attracting new or returning Catholics is anybody's guess. Personally, I think it is a bit of both."

He said he uses a third-party company that analyzes all of their social media, website and email commentary "and helps us identify trends and thus we can tailor our message."

Grosso also interprets the data, "identifying key trends based on the time period and then making sure we are messaging appropriately."

For instance, if a keyword identifier says "prayer" has been referenced a number of times, he takes a random sample to get some specific details and "get a sense of what they really want and where they are asking -- social, web, otherwise."

Then he will try to offer various options: post a video of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano talking about prayer practices; make prayer practices his podcast topic for the following week; request the bishop write a blog-reflection on prayer; or offer links on the website to various prayer practices.

He said he tries to "take a deeper dive into (data) because keywords tell a story" and not project his own thinking or make too narrow an interpretation of a general topic.

With the COVID-19 crisis, he said, "the best thing I can do is allow the data points to represent our constituents, their wants, their needs, their asks. I then do my best to balance that with the messaging" the diocese wants to share with the faithful.

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Editors: The draft research paper is available in English at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/jc8vcx8qqdb84gn/Bentzen_religiosity_covid.pdf?dl=0

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Pope's favorability ratings move up from their 2018 low

IMAGE: CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis' favorability ratings among Americans of virtually all stripes are up from their low in 2018, according to a report released April 3 by the Pew Research Center.

Among Catholics themselves, 77% have a "very" or "mostly" favorable opinion of the pope, based on responses by 270 Catholics during Pew telephone surveying in January.

That's five percentage points up from his low of 72% in September 2018, when the U.S. church had been buffeted by revelations of sexual misconduct by then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick and the issuance of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed sex abuse by more than 300 priests and other church workers in six of the state's dioceses over a 70-year period starting in 1947.

In all, 1,504 U.S. adults were surveyed.

Pope Francis' favorability numbers are up among Catholics who are, or lean, Democratic, as well as those who are, or lean, Republican. He registered 87% approval among Catholic Democrats but 71% among Catholic Republicans, indicating a partisan divide within the church that Pew has found deepening in its recent polling on the question.

He also registered gains among non-Catholics. While Pope Francis had enjoyed majority support among white evangelical Christians in the past, a plurality of 43% now view him favorably, while 39% view him unfavorably. In the September 2018 survey, more evangelicals saw the pope unfavorably, 34%-32%

White non-evangelical Protestants' favorability jumped from 48% in 2018 to 62% in January. Americans who consider themselves unaffiliated with any denomination gave the pope a 58% favorability mark, up from 52%.

Because of the relatively small number of Catholics surveyed, no breakdowns are available on such demographic characteristics like age, race and language, according to Claire Gecewicz, a Pew researcher and co-author of the report.

By comparison, Pew asked the "favorability" question of about St. John Paul II three times between 1987 and 1996. His net favorability rating was between 91%-93%. Pew asked the question five times during Pope Benedict XVI's 2005-13 pontificate, ranging from a low of 67% shortly after his election as pontiff to 83% during his 2008 pastoral visit to the U.S. The other three times he achieved 74%.

The same question has been asked about Pope Francis 10 times during his seven years as pope. His highest mark was 90% in February 2015. Prior to the two most recent polls, his previous low was 79% in September 2013, six months after he became pope. Otherwise, he has reached 81%-87% in polling.

The margin of error for the January survey is 3.0 percentage points for all respondents, 7.0 percentage points for Catholics, 11.5 percentage points for those who said they go to Mass weekly, and 8.8 percentage points for Catholics who said they go to Mass less often.

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