Coronavirus and religion – daily update

Monday 16th March

By Lianne Kolirin

The coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on every area of life, including religious practice. As the situation continues to evolve at apace, we at the Religion Media Centre plan to report on all the significant developments affecting faith groups around the world.

  • All mosques in Singapore are closed until March 26, the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, MUIS) announced today after several worshipper tested positive for the coronavirus after a religious gathering in Malaysia. News link here
  • The Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem have shut their doors to worshippers until further notice. Prayers will still be allowed in the outdoor courtyard of Islam’s third-holiest site. The move comes after Israel’s Chief Rabbinate last week urged Jewish worshippers not to gather at the Western Wall. News link here
  • Celebrations for St Patrick’s Day, March 17, have been cancelled or postponed as countries around the world crack down on mass gatherings. New York’s annual parade has been cancelled for the first time in its 258-year history, while other main cities including Dublin, London, Chicago and Boston have taken similar action. News link here
  • The Pope ventured into Rome’s deserted streets on Sunday and headed to a church that houses a crucifix from the Great Plague. The Pope prayed for “the end of the pandemic that affects Italy and the world, imploring for the healing of the many sick, and remembering the many victims,” the Vatican said. News link here
  • Cardinal Carlos Osoro, the Archbishop of Madrid, gave his first digital-only sermon on Sunday as the city has gone into lockdown. News link here

All mass prayers have been banned in Kuwait, where hundreds of thousands of people are used to praying side-by-side on a daily basis. In a recording that went viral on social media, an imam preached: “Pray at home, pray at home.” News link here

As fear and panic continue to mount over the coronavirus pandemic and its many repercussions, religious leaders have issued messages of solidarity to communities and society’s most vulnerable.

  • Elderly people should be treasured and protected at this time of extraordinary challenge, according to the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, said: “As we move to the next phase of the response to the Coronavirus, the emphasis is very much on protecting the elderly, especially those who are particularly vulnerable. This will be a priority well understood and quickly accepted by the Catholic community and, I am sure, throughout our society. The elderly are our treasure, who enrich our lives and wisdom. We must do all we can to nurture and protect them always, but especially at this time of extraordinary challenge.”
  • Echoing those sentiments was a video message from Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to Reform Judaism. Posting on Twitter, she said: “I’m asking people to think about, in addition to how to look after ourselves physically, how to look after other people emotionally because they may be feeling even more lonely or isolated because this virus says ‘be on your own’. So let’s make sure that even if people can’t come together in communities, we’re aware of them and in touch with the people that need looking after and just simple love.”
  • Ensuring that people stay emotionally healthy, as well as physically fit, is all important to mental health charity Mind.  Stephen Buckley, the organisation’s head of information, said: “We know that coronavirus and its impact is causing stress and worry for many people. If you experience a mental health problem, it’s possible that worries about coronavirus may affect how you’re coping. It’s important to make sure that you look after your wellbeing during this time. Keeping physically active is a great way to do this so we would suggest coming up with a routine that includes some exercise. The media may also play a part in these worries. If you are finding the news coverage difficult to cope with, try switching off or limiting what your read or listen to for a while.”