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Letter from the Bishops of the Croatian Conference of Bishops to Priests and the Faithful on the Conducting of Holy Masses and Other Liturgical Celebrations during the COVID-19 Epidemic

Zagreb (IKA)

On Thursday, April 30, the bishops of the Croatian Conference of Bishops issued a letter to priests and the faithful on the conducting of Masses and other liturgical celebrations during the COVID-19 epidemic, which stated, among other things, that each bishop would adopt specific provisions for his diocese, based upon the recommendations of the Croatian Institute of Public Health.

Dear Brother Priests and Dear Believers,

Diseases have always been and remain an integral part of human life, and will remain so until the end of the world. Although advances in medicine and other sciences have facilitated and accelerated the treatment of many diseases, we are witnessing that insufficient knowledge about the coronavirus is creating uncertainty in the arduous struggle to safeguard health. In this struggle and concern for the health of the soul and body, it is our duty to utilize the available natural and supernatural means.

Thus, the Church, throughout its existence, has shown concern for the care of the sick and needy, established health care institutions, promoted charitable activities and scientific research, while perseveringly praying to God in thanksgiving for the signs of his nearness. Even during the recent weeks, as believers we have tirelessly offered our prayers and entreaties on various occasions and in many ways. Our prayers are especially addressed to Jesus and Our Mother Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the Health of the Sick and the “sign of certain hope and comfort,” as we pray in the Preface of the Assumption of Mary. We pray to her and other heavenly protectors to free us from the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic.

We urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to continue in acts of piety. We pray to our heavenly protectors to help us be steadfast in our faith and obtain peace of soul and body for us. With this spiritual help and support, it is necessary to adhere to the necessary measures against the unknown and dangerous virus threatening human health and lives. Therefore, may our prayer be joined with wise and prudent measures to prevent illness.

As we thank all those who have cared and continue to care for the health of our citizens, we thank you, dear priests and the faithful, for having responsibly accepted and complied with the Directives of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, issued on March 19, 2020, with regard to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. The directives, which we issued out of love and responsibility for the lives and health of all of us, were no exception. They were adopted in communion with the Holy Father, as numerous episcopal conferences have done before and after us. With your discipline and sacrifice, you have demonstrated Christian responsibility for the common good and helped prevent the pandemic from spreading to more people in Croatia, in order to avoid overburdening the health care system and prevent greater suffering and dying, unlike the case in some other countries.

Thank you all for your patience and for submitting critiques of the measures in force until now. We are pleased that the present circumstances permit the mitigation of the directives. In the life of the Church, this arouses hope for the gradual return of more regular forms of liturgical and prayer gatherings, and for pastoral-catechetical activity.

On Thursday, April 23, 2020, the Government of the Republic of Croatia approved measures for the resumption of economic and other activities within the context of the declared COVID-19 epidemic, which stipulate the gradual relaxation of previous measures and, in this regard, permit religious gatherings as of May 2, 2020, thereby suspending the Ruling of the Civil Protection Headquarters dated March 19, 2020.

In regard to the prevention of contagion, caution and the safeguarding of human health, we, the bishops of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, urge all of you, dear brother priests and all of you, dear faithful, to continue to adhere to the recommendations of the Croatian Institute of Public Health on physical distancing, enhanced personal hygiene, enhanced cleaning and disinfection of common areas, and monitoring personal health, which will be published and concern church premises and religious gatherings. This is a matter of expert opinions and recommendations, which must be taken seriously by all of us, respected and conscientiously followed.

On the basis of recommendations by the Croatian Institute of Public Health, each bishop shall issue specific provisions for the territory of his diocese. With the entry of these new provisions into force, the Directives of the Croatian Conference of Bishops in regard to the threat of contagion from coronavirus, dated March 19, 2020, shall cease to be in force.

In this Easter season, as we reflect upon the mystery of Christ’s glorious victory over death and sin, let us turn our attention to all those afflicted by uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Through our prayers and acts of love, may they experience the power of the Good News.

We place all the faithful and people of good will under the powerful intercession of Our Heavenly Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph, the patron saint of the Church and our homeland, and all the heavenly protectors of our dioceses.