NEWS BRIEFS

– Tej Francis
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VATICAN CITY

Preventing pandemic: Vatican moves to stop spread of corona virus

One of several empty holy water fonts is seen in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 4, 2020. Churches in Rome have adopted measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Italy. (CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves) See VATICAN-LETTER-CORONAVIRUS March 5, 2020.

 

(CNS) The month of March is usually when tourists flock to the Eternal City after the cold winter months and pilgrims come to pray at many holy sites during the Lenten season.

With news of the growing number of people infected with the novel corona virus, increasing travel restrictions and the Italian government’s order to close all schools, universities and institutes until March 15, places like the Milan cathedral, known as the “Duomo,” and the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican are eerily empty.

As of March 4, more than 2,700 people in Italy have contracted the virus, known as COVID-19, while at least 107 people have died since the outbreak began in northern Italy, the Italian health ministry said.

Nevertheless, the delicate balancing act of preventing others from being contaminated while not increasing panic has proven to be a challenge, especially for the Vatican, which receives thousands of visitors each year to its museums, catacombs and churches.

Matteo Alessandrini, a press officer at the Vatican Museums, acknowledged that cancellations by tour groups have caused a significant drop in visitors.

“We don’t have a private airport so those who don’t come to Rome obviously don’t come to the Vatican,” Alessandrini told Catholic News Service March 4.

A recent report in the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero stated that the Vatican Museums experienced “an estimated 60% drop in attendance.”

VATICAN CITY

Catholics urged to support Middle East Christians on Good Friday

(Catholic Herald) The Middle East, which continues to face many hardships and challenges, need the ongoing support of Catholics around the world, a Vatican official said.

“Long and exhausting wars continue to produce millions of refugees and strongly influence the future of entire generations,” said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

“They see themselves deprived of the most basic goods, such as the right to a peaceful childhood, to a harmonious school education, to dedicating one’s youth to looking for a job and forming a family, to discovering one’s vocation, to an industrious and dignified adult life, and to a peaceful old age,” he wrote.

In a letter sent to bishops around the world, Cardinal Sandri asked for continued support for the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land.

“The funds traditionally collected on Good Friday are the main source of material support for Christian life in the Holy Land,” the cardinal wrote. “The territories that benefit in various forms of support from the collection are Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.”

The Church in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East has endured “severe trials” over the centuries, Cardinal Sandri wrote.

EL SALVADOR

Former colonel to be charged for Jesuit murders

(Independent Catholic News) A former colonel in El Salvador is set to be charged with the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter on November 16, 1989, by the Salvadoran military’s Atlacatl Battalion.

The search for justice following the murders of Ignacio Ellacuría SJ, Ignacio Martín-Baró SJ, Segundo Montes SJ, Juan Ramón Moreno SJ, Joaquín López y López SJ and Amando López SJ, with their housekeeper Elba Julia Ramos and her daughter Celina, has been long and arduous.

After 30 years of seeking justice and 10 years of litigation, the Spanish National Court will begin the trial of former colonel and Vice-Minister of Public Security, Inocente Orlando Montano, on June 8, 2020.

Montano is charged with murder and terrorism for his alleged involvement as one of the key decision-makers behind the murders. The Guernica Centre for International Justice, part of The Guernica Group, and Spanish co-counsel Ollé & Sesé Abogados will lead the prosecution on behalf of the victims. This trial represents a key moment for universal jurisdiction, a crucial element of transitional justice for El Salvador and international criminal law.

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