LEICESTER, United Kingdom – On March 25, the Catholic Church in Ireland will be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary “for strength and protection from the coronavirus, COVID-19.”

The Irish bishops have invited people to join the consecration – scheduled to take place at noon on the feast of the Annunciation – as families and individuals. The prayer is scheduled to coincide with a request from Pope Francis for the entire world to pray the Lord’s Prayer at noon on the feast day.

As of Monday, the Republic of Ireland had 1,125 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 6 fatalities; while Northern Ireland has 148 confirmed cases, with 2 fatalities.

The Church in Ireland has been preparing for the consecration with a novena that begin on the Feast of St. Patrick.

“As Church now, more than ever, we are committed to offering prayer, solidarity and compassion in our society,” said Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Primate of All Ireland.

“Social distancing cannot be allowed to create social isolation and, through prayer, as Pope Francis said on Sunday, we can overcome: ‘In these trying days, while humanity trembles due to the thread of the pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians that together we lift our voices towards Heaven.’ Pope Francis has shown strong pastoral leadership at this horrendous time especially when we consider the impact that the rapid devastation COVID19 has wrought across Italy,” the archbishop continued.

Martin called on the people of Ireland to join “in spiritual communion with Our Lord, Our Blessed Mother, Pope Francis and with each other.”

Northern Ireland, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, was put into lock-down on Monday evening in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, which disproportionately affects the elderly and threatens to overwhelm local health systems.

The Republic of Ireland was expected to follow suit later on Tuesday.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome

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