Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As all are aware, we are at present living and experiencing an unprecedented and extraordinary existential situation, something that nobody ever dreamt we would experience. Due to the lockdown, churches have been closed and the liturgical services that used to bring us together to celebrate and nourish our faith has been also somewhat suspended or very limited in the number of those who could take part in them. The elderly and those who are medically more at risk and vulnerable have been isolating themselves, thus somehow depriving themselves of the presence of their closeness to family members. Social distancing also has to be kept in order to avoid being infected by the coronavirus.
I would like to take this opportunity first of all to express a word of encouragement, especially to the elderly and those who are medically more at risk and vulnerable, who, for their own well-being, are obliged to stay at home. We should do our best not to forget them and to keep in touch with them. Fortunately, the means of communication that are at our disposal make it possible and quite easy to keep in touch with out dear ones. I would also like to show my appreciation for their generosity and sense of sacrifice in following the advice of the Health Authorities. It is our duty not to forget them and to keep in touch with them regularly.
The Health Authorities are informing us daily on how the situation is developing, and thank God we are getting encouraging news, although we are warned not to relax in our observance of the directives issued by them. We have to cooperate with the Authorities if we are to promote the health of others and safeguard our own.
I would like also to ask the Catholic faithful, who have been deprived of meeting together in our Churches or religious places of worship, to pray that it will not be long before the time arrives when we will be able to meet together as a community of believers. What makes the Church alive and really present in our lives is the ability to listen to the Word of God, to celebrate the Eucharist, and to receive the Sacraments. Let us also pray that we may soon be able to hold funerals in the traditional manner so dear to us, when we take our beloved departed to Church to give them there a dignified last farewell in the way that we are accustomed to do. It is a situation that saddens me to think that when we are celebrating a funeral, we have to do so with the bare essentials, with a very limited number of people attending and away from a church either at the Cemetery or Crematorium. It is so sad that we are deprived of showing our appreciation to our departed friends and family members.
May I also show my sincere appreciation towards those who, at great personal sacrifice, are helping those who are in need. They are the heroes and heroines of the situation in which we are living, and they deserve all our gratitude and respect.
We all are aware that life after this period of lockdown will not be the same as it was before. Many uncertainties and financial difficulties will have to be faced. We will need to adjust to a new and very different kind of life from the one we are used to. This tempest we are facing is teaching us to give more attention to what is really important and essential in life; and to learn to do without what is peripheral.
As soon as the civil authorities start relaxing the conditions of the lockdown, in accordance with their regulations and respecting social distancing, it is my hope that we will start celebrating again the Eucharist in public, even if in limited numbers and that the churches may open again for private prayer. When the right conditions permit, the Chrism Mass, which was not celebrated in Holy Week as usual, will be also celebrated, to thank God for being our rock and our help in our time of need.
We will shortly be starting the month of May, a month dedicated in a special way to Our Lady. Pope Francis in a letter to all the faithful has urged us to pray the rosary every day during May. The Rosary is a powerful prayer especially in times of necessity and danger. For the last five hundred years the Rosary has always been the special prayer to honour Our Lady and to seek her intercession. Praying the rosary as a family is recommended, but if this is not possible individual recitation of the Rosary is encouraged.
May Our Lady of Europe, who by her intercession is our protection in times of need, continue to look after us and support us. May St. Bernard, Patron of Gibraltar intercede for us too.
With an assurance of my prayers,
Bishop of Gibraltar