ROME — Although COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have shuttered public celebrations around the world, Catholics in Chile still should find meaningful ways to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first Mass celebrated in the country, Pope Francis said.

Despite the limitations, “there is no obstacle that can silence the gratitude that springs from the hearts of all of you, sons and daughters of the pilgrim church in Chile,” the pope said in a Nov. 9 letter to Chilean Bishop Bernardo Bastres of Punta Arenas and to all dioceses in the country.

“I encourage you to live the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery, which unites us to Jesus, with a spirit of adoration and thanksgiving to the Lord, because it is the principle of new life and unity for us and impels us to grow in fraternal service to the poorest and most disinherited of our society,” he wrote.

In 1520, Friar Pedro De Valderrama, chaplain of the famed expedition of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, celebrated Sunday Mass in Fortescue Bay, near the area known today as Punta Arenas.

While in past years the anniversary was marked with outdoor celebrations and processions, restrictions to fight the spread of the coronavirus have impeded many civil and religious gatherings.

Quoting the Second Vatican Council, the pope said that today, like 500 years ago, the celebration of the Eucharist is where “grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.”

“For this reason, in this fifth centenary, we can rightly say, as the motto of the Diocese of Punta Arenas states, that ‘God entered from the South,’ since that first Mass celebrated with faith, in the simplicity of an expedition in a then unknown territory, gave birth to the church that continues to go on pilgrimage in that beloved nation.”

Pope Francis said he joined Chilean Catholics in their “thanksgiving to the Lord who in the Eucharist continues to make himself ‘bread’ that satisfies the deepest hunger of every man and woman, calling everyone in his love to live a brotherhood that is in solidarity and effective, that does not exclude, that does not oppress, that does not ignore.”