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Pope says coronavirus pandemic time to discover ‘new closeness’

With so many suffering from the new coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis says these difficult times also provide an opportunity for people to show a deeper, more concrete concern for each other.

“Sometimes we only experience a virtual form of communication with one another. Instead, we should discover a new closeness. More concrete relationships made of attention and patience,” Catholic News Service (CNS) cities the pope as telling the Italian daily, La Repubblica, published on March 18.

Pope Francis turned his attention to the first responders and healthcare professionals working on the front lines during this global health crisis. 

“I thank those who give themselves in this way to others,” the pope said.

“And I ask everyone to stay close to those who have lost loved ones, to be close to them in every possible way. Consolation must now be everyone’s commitment,” he added.

Pope Francis also said those who are living under lockdown can use this time to turn their attention to those small things in life that often get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

“We must rediscover the concreteness of little things, small gestures of attention we can offer those close to us, our family, our friends. We must understand that in small things lies our treasure,” he said.

“For example, a hot meal, a caress, a hug, a phone call. They are familiar gestures of attention to the details of everyday life that make life meaningful and that create communion and communication among us,” the pope added.

Pope Francis said that even in normal times, people were disconnected  through television and mobile phones, turning what should be moments of closeness into times of isolation.

“Listening to each other is important because that’s how we can understand the needs, efforts, desires of the other. This language made of concrete gestures must be safeguarded. In my opinion, the pain of these days should open us up to this concreteness,” he said.

With Italy now in its second week of lockdown over the new coronavirus epidemic, Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed the need to find beauty in simplicity, strengthen family bonds, and give comfort to the most vulnerable among us. 

During morning Mass on March 16, he said that periods of quarantine provided “a wonderful occasion for rediscovering true affection with creativity in the family,” while stressing that God “always operates in simplicity,” allowing for his will to be discovered in things both big and small. 

Pope Francis has also offered his prayers to the elderly, who are particularly at risk both in terms of health, and social isolation, due to the ongoing pandemic. 

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