Indian Catholics pray during a Friday afternoon service at the Holy Name Cathedral in Mumbai on March 15, 2013. All Masses have been canceled in Mumbai Archdiocese until April 4 as a measure against the spread of coronavirus. (Photo: AFP)
Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias has appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi's advice to all Indians to have a voluntary home quarantine on Sunday as part of efforts to check the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. In a nationwide televised address on March 19, Modi urged all 1.3 billion people to impose a self-enforced "Janata (people) curfew" on March 22 from 7am to 9pm."All citizens should follow the curfew. No citizen should step out or assemble," he said.Cardinal Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, said he was following the PM's call to cancel all Masses in his archdiocese."Heeding our prime minister's call and in the interest of the safety of our people, which is truly paramount, I have decided to cancel all public Masses in the archdiocese," he said in his video message.
Masses are canceled from March 20 to April 4, the eve of Palm Sunday, the cardinal said. The virus began to spread in India only in the last fortnight. The first cases reported in late January were three students arriving from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where Covid-19 was first reported in December. But they were cleared of the virus and discharged in February. However, since late February, more cases have slowly spread to almost all 29 Indian states. As of March 20, India had reported 195 confirmed cases and four deaths. "It is a trying and tense period for all of us. We need to turn to God. I am keeping our churches open for at least a few hours every day to enable those who want to pray privately before the blessed sacraments to do so," Cardinal Gracias said.He asked Catholics to take advantage of the many television channels that telecast Masses.'My advice to you is stay at home, avoid socializing, keep your eyes open to help those in need for help," the cardinal said.PM Modi lauded those in the forefront fighting the Covid-19 pandemic such as medical staff, police, government servants, airline staff and media persons. He asked all citizens to salute their efforts by standing on the balconies and at the doors of their houses and ring bells for five minutes as a show of appreciation on March 22 at 5pm."India could not be immune to the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus," Modi said as he appealed the people to maintain patience in the fight against the pandemic. He asked people to follow government guidelines and to strictly adhere to social distancing to contain the spread of the disease. The federal government has constituted an economic task force to chalk out a blueprint to tide over the financial woes caused by the pandemic."India with its huge population, especially those living in villages with the least medical facilities, if infected, will have no means to contain," Modi said. Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, the capital of the central state of Madhya Pradesh, said India's village population, away from medical facilities, could face disaster if the virus spread. "As part of the social distancing, I have exempted Catholics from attending Sunday Mass," he told UCA News on March 20. "The people, however, can attend Mass in small numbers if they so desire."
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