Churches of Syria and Iraq take actions to prevent outbreak of coronavirus; Pope Francis prays for an end to pandemic

QAMISHLI, Syria / MOSUL, Iraq / VATICAN – The Syriac Orthodox Church in Qamishli has begun implementing several decisions on the establishment of prayers and religious services in the church, to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Father Saliba Abdullah, priest of the Virgin Mary Church in Qamishli, said to North Press Agency that the statement issued by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East came at the right time to fight coronavirus, adding that the instructions in the statement are “keeping churches open to believers unless they oppose measures taken by governments, and those who show satisfactory symptoms are advised to remain home and can call the priest to pray for them and give them the Holy Eucharist at home.” Father Abdullah also said that the Church is committed to the decisions of the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria has and will make in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Across the border in Iraq, the Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, and Chaldean of Mosul parishes in the city of Mosul were issued a set of resolutions to reduce the coronavirus epidemic:

    • All celebrations of Saint’s days should stop in all parish churches. All church prayers and activities from Sunday, 15 March to 28 March are cancelled.
    • Prayers for burial ceremonies, should they happen, will be held at the small church of the cemetery, and participation is limited to parents and relatives. No funerals or banquets are to be held in the halls of churches. No kissing or handshakes with the family of the deceased.
    • Cleanliness is emphasized and churches and public areas should be sterilized.

In related news, Pope Francis left the Vatican on Sunday and stood to pray in front of the Byzantine icon known as the “Salvation of the Roman People” in the Basilica of Mary the Great. The Pope then went to the Church of San Marcello al Corso where he prayed in front of the crucified who saved Rome from the plague. The Pope asked God to put an end to this pandemic that is hitting Italy and the whole world, and a speedy recovery for patients as well as the safety of all health workers, doctors, and nurses.