On Friday, March 27, I received the news that Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay had died of COVID-19, becoming the first priest believed to have died of coronavirus in the United States.
On Friday, March 27, under a persistent light rain coming down from a gray Roman sky, and facing an empty St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis imparted a special Urbi et Orbi, the blessing “to the City [of Rome] and to the World” that is normally only given on Christmas and Easter.
Despite regulations established by civil and ecclesiastical authorities to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many priests in remote areas of Ireland are feeling pressure to celebrate funeral Masses. In rural parishes, funerals are “big occasions for the community,” according to Father Brendan Hoban, co-founder of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests.
This has been the strangest Lent of our lives, as it will be during the Holy Week we start this Sunday. The crowds that usually fill our churches with palm leaves in their hands, won’t be there. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the suspension of Masses and the closing of churches.
Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, pastor of St. Brigid’s parish in Wyckoff Heights, Brooklyn, died of coronavirus this Friday.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio released a video on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, when the Church celebrates the Archangel Gabriel’s apparition to the Virgin Mary to tell her that she was to be the Mother of God.
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; / Lord, hear my voice! / Let your ears be attentive / to my voice in supplication.”
On Thursday, March 12, within a five-minute span, I received three big pieces of news: my youngest son’s school was going to close due to a coronavirus case in the district; the Archdiocese of New York was closing its schools to avoid spreading the virus; and the New York Philharmonic decided to cancel all its performances for a week.
Many may be worrying a lot about the world’s current situation. There’s the threat of terrorism, coronavirus, and the stock market’s fluctuations. But consider the hand that was dealt to Pope Benedict XV. He was elected pope six weeks after the beginning of the World War I or, as he called it, “the suicide of civilized Europe.” He had to lead the church not just through war, but also the Spanish flu pandemic that killed some 50 million around the world in 1918.
Our body politic has been contaminated with the coronavirus of polarization. That’s one of the few things we all more or less can agree on. But disagreement isn’t a social sickness in a democracy. On the contrary, democracy is a collective agreement to disagree.