By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican published a free downloadable book of Pope Francis’ prayers and homilies responding to the trial and suffering of the coronavirus pandemic.
Titled “Strong in the Face of Tribulation,” the book also contains suggestions for Catholics who are unable to receive the sacraments due to restrictive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The book, which was released April 21, is available in English, Italian, Spanish and French and will be updated several times a week “with new homilies and other interventions made by the pope,” said Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.
“This book is intended to be a little help offered to all, so as to know how to discern and experience God’s closeness and tenderness in pain, in suffering, in solitude and in fear,” Tornielli wrote in the book’s introduction.
Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, he said, the world is “facing a state of affairs that until just a few weeks ago would have seemed unimaginable, like the premise of a science fiction film.”
“Thousands of people are gravely ill, thousands have died,” he wrote. “Many families mourn their loved ones, to whom they were unable to stay close, to whom they were unable to say farewell, and who were cremated without the possibility of a funeral.”
Another sad reality in the time of the coronavirus is the solitude faced by thousands who, in their final moments, are unable to receive the sacraments or be surrounded by loved ones, but instead are accompanied by doctors and nurses who are “pushed to their limits.”
“We all owe a debt of gratitude to them, as they fight on the front line for people’s lives every day,” he wrote.
Tornielli said that civil servants, volunteers helping the poor and the elderly, as well as priests and religious men and women “who share the sufferings of their people” also must be remembered.
For Catholics, he added, not participating in the liturgy or the sacraments, “aggravates this condition of uncertainty, discomfort and confusion.”
Nevertheless, Tornielli said the church’s invitation to “renew our faith in the risen Christ” has sparked creativity, especially among priests who, through the use of technology, “make themselves present in the life of their communities and families confined to their homes in semi-deserted cities.”
The editorial director said that when lived “in its essential elements,” Christian faith can offer an outlook on reality that offers the possibility of seeing God’s love and experiencing the unity of the church even amid solitude and isolation.
“Of course, faith does not eliminate pain; ecclesial communion does not eliminate anguish,” he wrote. “Rather, it does illuminate reality and reveal that it is pervaded by the love and hope based not on our abilities, but on the one who is faithful and never abandons us.”