23rd March 2020
SUBJECT: BE SAFE FROM THE CORONA VIRUS DISEASE PANDEMIC
You will be aware, as much as I am, about the pandemic the world is facing today, and its extremely tragic impact in many parts of the world especially in Italy, the country where some of our priests are ministering.
We are all aware of what is happening in the other parts of the world: several countries have issued severe restrictions on movement and gatherings, including India, our Motherland. We had the Janata Curfew yesterday in all over the country. The bishops in Andhra and Telangana have expressed their concern and encouraged the faithful to follow the instructions of the Central and State governments regarding the health precautions that are needed to be taken. They have even cancelled the feasts and Sunday Masses, including the feast of Nirmalagiri this year. Churches, mosques and temples remain closed until further notification.
Both the CMs of the Telugu States have announced that the States would be locked down till March 31, like other states, to contain COVID-19. Now in several states interstate borders are sealed, public transport (Trains, busses etc.)is stopped, cinema halls and malls are shut along with all non-essential establishments. So much so we are not able to send our minor seminarians home which we wanted to do after the Janata Curfew on 22nd March 2020. We are 10 priests (including the newly ordained) and fifty seminarians locked down in St. John’s Nidadavolu. I have talked to all of them yesterday explaining the gravity of the situation. We are all praying for you in our daily prayers, masses and special adorations conducted here. Please keep us also in your prayers.
Given the gravity of the situation, we feel more and more concerned about all our priests working in different parts of the world, especially those members who are working in Italy. As of now, all over the world, including India, the security measures are made stricter (For instance, in the week starting on March 22, no international flight will be allowed to land in India. Such a step is without precedent). So much so, Frs. Sunny Joseph and Dola John who came home for their annual holidays are struck up here in India.
May I also use this occasion to remind all of us to make our communities (and our employees) aware of the necessary safeguards we all need to take to keep ourselves and others safe. I need not tell you what these measures are. Information is available readily and in plenty. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.
The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow, the need to wash hands thoroughly with soap when coming from outside or touching objects that others have handled, avoiding unnecessary travel, giving our workers leave (but paying them), avoiding physical contact, etc.). We may need to print these out and display them prominently in our institutions. Let us do what we can to avoid reaching the tragic stage where some other countries are today.
Let us pray for those affected by the virus, and for medical personnel all over who look after the sick at great risk to themselves, as well as for those working on discovering a vaccine and treatment.
With my fraternal greetings for a happy (but quiet) Easter, and praying for wisdom for all of us (to know what to do and what to avoid in this unprecedented situation), we assure you of our prayers.
Fraternally in the Lord,
Fr Jaya Raj Battula HGN