Bellary Bishop Henry D'Souza: Fear Not, Cooperate With Lock Down

The following is the full text of the message of Bishop Henry D’Souza to the faithful of the Diocese of Bellary:

Dear Rev. Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings of peace and joy to you!

We are in unprecedented situation in the country and even the entire world due to the COVID–19 pandemic. The governments and the Church are taking preventive measures to fight the dreaded virus. We too are forced to change our daily routines. Many are worried about taking care of the children and elderly, appearing for public examinations and about jobs. In these challenging and exceptional times, we are constrained to take effective measures to protect the good health and well-being of our people, without neglecting our pastoral obligations. In keeping with our profound respect for human life and the regulations imposed by the civil authorities and also in solidarity with the humanity deeply affected by the corona pandemic, we therefore, send the following guidelines to be observed from today until they are reviewed on April 4, 2020.

1. In the face of present crisis, let there be no fear or panic. We strongly trust in the divine Providence that has declared, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Dt 31:6).

2. Let all priests, the religious and lay faithful restrict their travels and participation in large gatherings, always complying with the preventive measures prescribed by the Government.

3. The Prime Minister of India has declared a nationwide 'Janta Curfew" on Sunday, March 22, urging all people to stay at home from 7 am to 9 pm. We urge the entire community to comply fully.

4. All pastors, heads of institutions and families, shall particularly care for the vulnerable persons such as the elderly, the differently-able and children.

5. All elderly and those who are not well and have visible symptoms of cold and cough are advised are urged to stay at home and to refrain from attending church services.

6. All liturgical services, retreats, novenas, conventions, animation programmes and other spiritual exercises shall remain suspended until further orders.

7. Priests shall celebrate the daily Masses in their respective churches and chapels without the presence of the people. Priests and the religious shall continue to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, Prayer of the Church, the Way of the Cross and other devotions, without encouraging lay faithful to participate.

8. Due to the strict regulation imposed on gathering of people, denying public access to Sunday Mass, the Faithful are dispensed from the Sunday obligation of Mass. We hereby exempt the Faithful from the Obligation of participating in the Holy Mass on Sundays and days of obligation till further notice. The situation will be reviewed on April 4, 2020.

9. Many Catholics are wondering what to do if they can’t attend Holy Mass or receive the Eucharist. There are many ways one can nurture spiritual life. We can make use of this time to increase personal prayer life, strengthen family prayer, explore the richness of Sacred Scripture, and deepen the understanding of the faith. Therefore we encourage you:

9.1. To follow the Holy Mass on Social Media and be united with the Lord spiritually.

9.2. Reading prayerfully the Readings of the day along with the reflection.

9.3. Study of the Holy Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

10. The clergy recollection scheduled for April 2 is cancelled. The Chrism Mass will be celebrated at 5.30 PM in the cathedral. We request only the diocesan officials, deans, priests in active ministry in Bellary city, and DPC and CRI officials to participate.

11. We are committed to doing our bit in protecting our people, especially the poor, the vulnerable and children. Therefore we request all pastors to keep the churches, presbyteries and institution premises clean and sanitized. Also to take the usual precautions of distributing Holy Communion in hand, avoiding kissing of statues and relics, social- distancing, shaking hands and hugs, greeting with Namasthe sign and etc.

12. We urge our priests and religious to continue visiting the sick and families, prayer for people, and administering Sacraments to the needy.

It's not an easy time; but we are confident it will get better. We trust in the Lord who declared, "I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Mt 28:20). Meanwhile, let us support each other through prayers and charity.

With best wishes and prayers,

+ Henry D'Souza Bishop of Bellary

Our Patron
St Anthony of Padua