JERUSALEM (CNS) — The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem urged its faithful to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health, following its order March 5 to close all schools, universities, mosques and churches, including the Church of the Nativity and Shepherd’s Field.
The affected areas were in the West Bank: Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Jericho for 14 days following seven reported cases of the coronavirus in the Bethlehem and Beit Jala area.
“Unfortunately, this danger is already in our midst, and with a sense of responsibility, we must cooperate with the authorities and those responsible for public health for the good of all,” Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator, said in a statement.
A spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism said seven employees of the Angel Hotel tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. The cases, which were tested in an Israeli hospital, are suspected to be connected to a group of Greek pilgrims who had stayed in the Beit Jala hotel and who were also diagnosed with the virus after they returned home.
Minister of Health Mai al-Kailah told a news conference that the seven people had been placed in quarantine together with the hotel staff and two doctors who had come into contact with them. The minister has been counseling people to remain calm and to follow official directives, including washing hands often.
As of March 6, the Palestinian Authority will close off the areas to all tourist groups, although those groups already in the Bethlehem would be permitted to remain until the end of their planned stay. All shops and restaurants will be closed, and all workshops, conferences and other social and sport activities have also been canceled.
In the Latin Patriarchate statement, Archbishop Pizzaballa provided guidelines for the local parishes and churches in those towns.
The parish churches were to remain open only for individual prayer. In addition to the previous directives it gave, Archbishop Pizzaballa said Masses could be celebrated only for groups no larger than 15 people, as long as there is at least one meter between each person. The Stations of the Cross could be held in open spaces weather permitting, he said; if not families should pray it privately in their homes.
He invited parish priests to organize online streaming of Masses and religion classes, and said he left it to individual priests to find ways that would allow the faithful to receive the Eucharist, such as holding outdoor Masses as long as they were in accordance with the Palestinian Ministry of Health guidelines.
“We encourage everyone to pray at home, read the Bible, and continue to fast, asking God for mercy and forgiveness,” said Archbishop Pizzaballa.
“I know that not everyone will agree to these guidelines, but I call on everyone to a sense of responsibility and unity,” he added. “The strength which comes to us from communion with Christ Jesus does not take away our human responsibility to protect, care for and heal our environment.”
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103