Rome, 26 March 2020
“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ…” (Gaudium et Spes 1)
Dear pre-novices, novices and confreres in the formation communities around the world,
Greetings from our “Sede Centrale” at Sacro Cuore, Rome, at a time of an unprecedented global emergency due to the Corona virus.
As you have no doubt been following on the news, Italy and Spain are among the countries in Europe that are most badly affected by this pandemic, and our own communities, including formation communities, have not been spared. We pray for our confreres who have died in some of our provinces, and also for those who are sick and for their respective communities, to whom we feel very close in spirit, even though we cannot express otherwise our affection.
The infection is now fast spreading around the world. We can only imagine the extent of the crisis in places where health care is in no way adequate.
I am writing to express the closeness and solidarity of the Rector Major, the Council and the other confreres who live in the “Sede Centrale.” We ourselves are living in conditions that a few weeks ago would have been unthinkable, but which today are not only prudent but also necessary. We are following different shifts for prayers and meals, and also different places, so as to be able to observe “social distancing.” Sanitizing gel distributors have been installed on each floor, and we have also differentiated those who returned from Valdocco after the General Chapter and those who had remained in Rome, so as to make possible a kind of quarantine. Further, like the rest of Italy, we confine ourselves to the house, going out only in case of strict necessity, and that too with the “auto-certification” that is now obligatory.
As the pandemic spreads, perhaps you have already adopted similar measures in your communities – but in case you have not, I warmly urge you to do so. This is not to be seen as an excess of prudence. It is a duty of citizenship in line with this year's Strenna and, even more, in solidarity with the enormous effort that is being made in our countries to contain the spread of the virus.
Unfortunately, experience even here in Rome is showing that the spread of the infection can be extremely rapid in religious communities, extending in no time to almost all the members of the community. As our heroic doctors and medical personnel are constantly repeating, the greatest service we can do at this moment is precisely to follow all the civil norms and to remain as healthy as possible, also so as not to overburden national health systems that will rapidly reach the limits of their capacities.
This is a time, dear brothers, to cultivate a sense of solidarity and communion, not only among ourselves but also with all those who are affected by this calamity, following the example that Pope Francis is giving us. It is a time of prayer but also a time of spiritual and digital creativity, where charity and mutual support can find new forms, and where those who are younger can do much good, thanks to the greater familiarity they have with the digital world. Here in Sacro Cuore, for example, we have some young people living in the campus for an experience of community life – and the Mass that they celebrate with Fr Francisco (Paco) Santos is broadcast every day via the internet, with many who are following them online in Italy and from abroad.
Let us support one other wholeheartedly in prayer. This is for all of us a unique experience of the Passion and Resurrection, and we ask for a deepening of faith, hope and charity as we live through it together with millions of our brothers and sisters around the world.
Affectionately in Don Bosco,
Ivo Coelho, SDB
PS: For reliable information on Covid-19, see these WHO pages:
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