Pope Francis has prayed that Christians would act with “prudence and prayer” as lockdown restrictions due to the new coronavirus pandemic started to ease.
During Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on April 28, the pontiff expressed hope that people will prudently adhere to measures put in place for the easing of the quarantine.
“When indications have been given to exit out of quarantine, we pray the Lord will grant to His people, all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to these indications, so that the pandemic does not return,” said the pope.
Pope Francis issued the statement after Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced plans for a gradual easing of lockdown measures in the country.
Italian bishops, however, expressed concern that the government’s plan to ease the lockdown in stages through June 1 had not made provision for the resumption of public Masses.
The prime minister promised to study the issue to see if there were ways to do so safely.
In other parts of the world, Greece announced that restrictions on citizens’ movements would be lifted and more shops allowed to reopen from May 4 in a gradual easing of a lockdown.
Germany, meanwhile, noted that transmission of the new coronavirus disease has again picked up just as the country attempts a cautious easing of its lockdown measures.
In Asia, Singapore announced it will extend its partial lockdown by four more weeks after reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases in recent days.
The Philippines has also extended its lockdown of the main island of Luzon, including the capital Manila even as it gradually eases quarantine measures in other parts of the country.
Thailand announced that it will extend a state of emergency until the end of May, but will consider easing some restrictions on businesses and public activities.
In his homily during Mass, Pope Francis reflected on the martyrdom of St. Stephen, noting that, like Jesus, Stephen was falsely accused of blasphemy as a pretext for his execution.
The pontiff warned against the “avalanche of false news that creates opinions” that condemn others. He said many times nothing can be done about them.
“There is the small daily lynching that tries to condemn people, to create a bad reputation of people, to discard them, to condemn them,” he said.
“It’s the small daily lynching of gossip, which creates opinions. So many times, one hears people speaking badly about others,” said the pope as he invited the faithful to think of today’s martyrs.
He recalled the case of Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five who was sentenced to death for blasphemy before the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her in 2018.
“Let’s think of Asia Bibi, for example, that we have seen: 10 years in prison because she was judged by a slander and a people who want her death,” said the pope.
The pope noted that it is easy to recognize false news as wrong, but he said people often overlook the “small daily lynchings” that take place when people gossip about others.
“Let’s think about our tongues; Many times with our comments we start such lynching. Even in our Christian institutions we have seen so many daily lynchings born out of gossip,” he said.