As of 28 February the vicar of Jerusalem has been in isolation, returning from a trip to Italy. Free time used to “read, pray, write and put my library and archives in order”. The new guidelines of the Latin patriarchate for Bethlehem. In Israel 16 confirmed cases, about 70,000 people in quarantine.
Jerusalem – On February 28, the vicar of the Latin Church of Jerusalem, in the context of the measures taken by the Israeli government to counter the spread of coronavirus, Msgr. Giancinto-Boulos Marcuzzo was quarantined on his return from a trip to Italy. An occasion, he writes, to “read, pray, write and put my library and archives in order “. Together with Msgr. Marcuzzo, a similar restrictive provision also concerns the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Msgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa and the Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Francesco Patton.
Yesterday in a note the Latin patriarchate issued new guidelines against the epidemic for the pastoral region of Bethlehem. They recall a provision of the Palestinian Ministry of Health which orders the closure of schools, mosques and churches for 14 days. The danger, writes Msgr. Pizzaballa, “is already among us” and “with a sense of responsibility we must all work together”. The directive provides that churches are open for individual prayer, even on Sundays; masses only for groups not exceeding 15 and keeping distances; communion only in hand, remove holy water and funerals in cemeteries, with a reduced number of people. Parish priests have the task of celebrating mass streams where possible.
Meanwhile in Israel there are 16 confirmed cases of new coronavirus, while people in quarantine are between 60 and 70 thousand. The authorities banned gatherings of over 5,000 people. Four contagions for Covid-19 in Palestine.
Here is the testimony of Msgr. Marcuzzo sahred with AsiaNews:
Dear sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends,
I wish you a happy Lent, our time of preparation for Easter, that is, preparation for resurrection to new life.
As you know, I usually write to you for large celebrations, family occasions or to share some extraordinary experiences with you, very simply and to make you a little part of my life. I begin with an adventure, small and successful, I hope, that I am experiencing right now.
From February 28 at noon I am at home quarantine because of the infamous coronavirus! For heaven’s sake, I assure you right away that, thank God, I’m fine. But you have to obey the ordinances of authority. Do not be afraid! Here is my little adventure.
As you know, I was in Rome for the CELRA (Conference of Latin Bishops of the Middle East) with 12 other bishops from different Middle Eastern countries. After the conference, having two free days, I wanted to go to the Carmelites in Lodi for masses and conferences in the Lodi area. But the Carmelites, at the last moment, called me: “It is prudent not to come, we are all isolated because of the coronavirus, here you will not be able to celebrate masses or have meetings!”. I changed my plane ticket and returned to Israel on Saturday evening 22nd. So did Fr. Pietro Felet who is our secretary. Everything was normal at the airport in Rome and Tel Aviv, and in Jerusalem where I continued my normal life of meetings, celebrations, meetings with pilgrims.
On February 28, the sudden change: they informed me that the Ministry of Health had issued new provisions on Thursday 27/2: closed space for flights from Italy, and if for some good reason they do arrive, Italians will be sent back, Israelis and foreigners with residence permits are accepted (this is my case), but in ‘ministerial’ (official) quarantine or home quarantine for 14 days. This is exactly what happened to our apostolic administrator Msgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who returned yesterday with the custodian of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, now he too is under house quarantine in in the patriarchate.
As for me, given that I returned to Israel on February 22, a week ago? Retroactive effect! For all those who entered Israel after February 16, quarantine for 14 days with interval surveillance, under penalty of three years in prison or expulsion from the country. I assure you that I am fine, but I have to respect the ordinances of the authorities, as the legal expression says: “Dura lex, sed lex”, “is a hard law, but it is a law. Even if for a week I had led my normal life, not having being told anything on arrival.
For exactly two weeks I have therefore been in quarantine in my patriarchate study, until Sunday 8 March. I had to cancel or postpone or change all the commitments this week. I am “putting on a good face in times of bad luck”, or rather” I make a virtue of necessity “. I abstain from all external contacts (celebrations, reunions, meetings with groups of pilgrims …). I must respect certain other precautions: disinfect the room, study and where I went (also the chapel), use a mask, stay five meters from any person (if it is really necessary), do not shake hands, wipe your hands and the face continuously with the hygienic gel. I am constantly and I also eat in my study, I take a few steps in the corridor when nobody is there, I read a lot (finally), I pray (a lot for all those who really suffer from this situation worldwide), I write, I organize my library and archives, listening to conferences or music.
However, we carry on the absolutely necessary work by telephone and computer, even with Msgr. Pizzaballa who lives in the adjoining room. I too must learn to handle such a situation, because I realize that I was not used to living without commitments. I consider it a good obligatory, almost providential holiday. All in all, as you can see, there is nothing particularly serious, thank God, but it is an unusual experience, in which you have to know how to keep your nerves and minds well and get used, despite everything, to see things positively.
We pray for all those who fall involuntarily victims of this situation which causes much damage, suffering and even bereavement. At the beginning of Lent, it is an excellent warning from the Lord.
Happy Lent, however, to all of you and friends. Many greetings and best wishes for every good, I embrace you all (only virtually).
With my blessing.
* Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, auxiliary bishop and patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem