ROME – Just a day after Cardinal Angelo De Donatis announced the unprecedented decision to close all the churches in the Diocese of Rome to stop the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, Papal Almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski has done exactly the opposite: The Polish cardinal opened his titular church, Santa Maria Immacolata in Rome’s Esquiline neighborhood.

“It is the act of disobedience, yes, I myself put the Blessed Sacrament out and opened my church,” Krajewski told Crux.

“It did not happen under fascism, it did not happen under the Russian or Soviet rule in Poland – the churches were not closed,” he said, adding that “this is an act that should bring courage to other priests.”

“Home should always be open to its children,” he told Crux in an emotional conversation.

“I don’t know whether people will come or not, how many of them, but their home is open,” he said.

On Thursday, De Donatis – the Cardinal Vicar of Rome – announced that all churches would be closed until April 3, even for private prayer. Public celebrations of the Mass and other liturgies had already been banned throughout Italy, On Friday morning, Pope Francis said during his morning Mass that “drastic measures aren’t always good” and prayed that pastors will find ways not to leave the People of God alone.

Krajewski has taken this message to heart.

Being the pope’s right-hand man for helping the poor of Rome, the cardinal did not suspend his charity meals. Usually distributed in the train stations of Termini and Tiburtina by dozens of volunteers, the tradition was only changed, not suspended. The volunteers now distribute “Bags from the heart” instead, giving out take home dinners, as opposed to sharing a meal at the table.

“I operate according to the Gospel; this is my law,” Krajewski told Crux, also mentioning the frequent police checks he experiences as he drives and walks around the city to help those in need.

“This help is evangelical, and it will be carried out,” he said.

“All the places for homeless people to stay at night are packed,” the Papal Almoner told Crux – including the Palazzo Migliori, which was opened by the cardinal in November, and is located near the Bernini colonnade of St. Peter’s.

When the outbreak of the coronavirus was beginning in Italy, Krajewski said the culture of life is now part of the national conversation.

“People don’t talk about abortion, or about euthanasia, because everyone is speaking for life,” he said, speaking when St Peter’s Basilica was still open to the public. “We are looking for vaccines, we are taking precautions to guarantee that we can save lives.”

“Everybody is choosing life today, beginning with the media,” Krajewski said. “God loves life. He does not want the death of the sinner; he wants the sinner to convert.”

Speaking on Friday, Krajewski said his titular church would be open all day for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and will be open regular hours for private prayer starting on Saturday.

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