NEW YORK — Vatican Cardinal João Braz Cardinal de Aviz has penned a letter to the women and men religious around the world encouraging them to obey both civil and ecclesial authorities as the Covid-19 pandemic wreaks havoc around the globe.

In a two-page letter dated March 16, Aviz, who is the prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said that the “most effective witness we can give is first of all a serene and committed obedience to what is demanded by those who govern us, both at the state and ecclesial level, to all that is disposed to safeguard our health, both as private citizens and as a community.”

Echoing the recent words of Pope Francis, he encouraged religious members to offer “concrete signs of closeness to our people,” at a time when public celebration of the sacraments have been put on hold in most parts of the globe in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

The Brazilian cardinal also encouraged the consecrated women and men to use this period as a time of communion with those around the globe who lack priests and “do not have the privilege to participate daily in the Holy Sacrifice.”

He also encouraged the use of modern social communication “to feel less alone and isolated and to make our voice reach the most distant communities.”

Aviz paid special tribute to Francis’s pilgrimage to the heart of Rome on Sunday where the pontiff walked through the empty streets of the city center to pray at the Church of San Marcello, which houses a crucifix that many believe saved Rome from the plague in 1522.

The pope “wanted to remind us that the means at our disposal to eradicate disasters and calamities are, in our so technological and advanced times, the same used by our ancestors,” wrote Aviz. “Prayer, sacrifice, penance, fasting and charity: powerful weapons to grasp from the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus the grace of a total healing from such an insidious disease.”

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During the Lenten season and upcoming Easter period, which is known for celebration Aviz said that this year, however, “we are called to live with strong faith, with the same intensity as always, but in completely different ways.”

Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212 

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