Sri Lankan Catholics fast and pray against Covid-19

Faithful continue to observe religious practices at home as authorities ban large public gatherings and impose a curfew
Sri Lankan Catholics fast and pray against Covid-19

A policeman stands guard at a checkpoint on an empty street in Colombo on March 21 after authorities announced a weekend curfew in Sri Lanka as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo: Lakruwan Wanniaracchi/AFP)

Sri Lankan Catholics have observed fasting and prayers seeking God’s intercession to prevent, protect and heal all affected by Covid-19 in the country and all over the world even though the local Church has cancelled Masses.

The country has imposed a curfew since the coronavirus count rose to 86. The government has imposed a curfew to minimize public gatherings until March 27.

The Church canceled Masses and other services from March 15 because of the rapid rise in coronavirus cases in Sri Lanka. The decision came in the middle of the Lenten season that features large gatherings such as 40-day healing services, the Way of the Cross, Lenten pilgrimages and group prayer services.

Maria Isabel, a member of the Legion of Mary, said she and her group observed fasting and prayers in their houses to free the country from the coronavirus.

Instead of going to church, Isabel lies on a mat with her family members on the floor in front of St. Mary's statue. She performs prayers with her rosary and prayer book.

"Mother Mary ... we hope to save our country and save all of who suffer from this menace," said Isabel.

"The parish priest of Weliveriya in Colombo Archdiocese traveled alone in a vehicle with the Blessed Sacrament through the village to bless all villagers last Friday," said Isabel.

"We perform prayers following the guidance of the bishops' conference."

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo urged the faithful to pray for all those affected by the coronavirus worldwide. "Today, we observe fasting and pray," he said in his sermon telecast on March 22.  

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL) called on all followers to observe March 22 as a day of fasting and prayer seeking Our Blessed Mother to intercede with God to prevent, protect and heal all nationwide and globally and to rid the world of this devastating virus.

"Let us be compassionate toward anyone who has contracted the virus and help direct the person to the health authorities and caregivers to restore the person's health and voluntarily seek treatment ourselves on the slightest suspicion of being infected by it,” CBCSL president Bishop Winston S. Fernando and secretary J.D. Anthony said in a statement on March 18.

"Covid-19 is not a respecter of personages and no one is spared." 

Bishops called on all sectors of society to give their fullest cooperation to arrest the prevailing situation and appreciated the medical attention and health care provided to prevent the virus from spreading and the treatment given during quarantine.

The government announced that all liquor shops in the country must remain closed when the curfew is lifted.

Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Election Commission, said the general election scheduled for April 25 has been indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic.

The deadline for accepting nominations for the parliamentary election ended on March 19.

A pastor who conducted a service in Jaffna on March 15 tested positive for the coronavirus after returning from Switzerland. The army, police and health officers are searching for 150 devotees who attended his service.

The Northern Province Governor's Office and health officials have called for all those who attended the service to be placed in quarantine as soon as possible.

Anglican Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey and Bishop Keerthisiri Fernando urged the suspension of common worship on Sundays until further notice to cooperate with the state to mitigate the outbreak.

"We urge you to keep your churches open for people to attend in small numbers at their discretion for private prayer if they wish to do so," the bishops said in a statement on March 20.

The clerics requested the public take extra precautions as recommended by the Public Health Department to mitigate the crisis until it is brought under control.

No deaths have been reported in Sri Lanka but 222 people are in hospitals under observation or receiving treatment.

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