400 priests and religious have lost their lives in Europe due to the coronavirus. This is what emerges from the report published on September 26, 2020 by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) concerning the pastoral action of the Church, during the spring wave of the Covid-19 epidemic. Old World bishops are also wondering about the return of the faithful to Sunday Mass.
From the British Isles to Russia, via the Scandinavian countries and Greece: the report published on September 26 comments on the data gathered by 39 episcopal conferences on the continent.
In Europe, priests and religious have paid a heavy price to the coronavirus. Among the countries most affected are the Netherlands, with 181 deaths among souls consecrated to God, Italy with 121, and Spain with 70.
There are also 10 victims in Poland, 5 in Belgium, 5 in Ukraine, 3 in Ireland, 4 in Austria, and one death in Lithuania. France did not provide data, but the newspaper La Croix reported last March that two priests still exercising their apostolate had already died, stricken by the epidemic.
At least four priests died victims of their devotion to the faithful entrusted to them.
The post-coronavirus time is also a period of uncertainty for episcopates: in France, a parliamentary note published on September 14th highlighted that only two thirds of the faithful had found their way back to Sunday Mass in France, since the end of the confinement.
For its part, the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales also recognizes the “slow return of the faithful to their churches” and adds that “it will take time for people to return to the practice of their faith.”
In his summary speech, Fr. Pavel Ambros, of the Faculty of Theology of Olomouc (Czech Republic) observes: “After the drastic confinement measures, many faithful began to say that they did not need to go to Mass, and asked for permission to be content with the Holy Mass broadcast live.”
“But be careful,” the reporter warns, “the more they get used to things being delivered to their homes, the more they will tend to adopt the same mental pattern for services that fall under the spiritual sphere.”
“It's like buying a pizza and bringing it home, one immediately takes it out of the box, and it’s ready to go. In the near future, one could easily see the faithful asking to have a host consecrated for them for their particular, domestic use: this danger is very real, it must be stopped in time.”
Unfortunately, the collapse of religious practice over the past 50 years, especially for the reasons that motivated it, is fertile ground for the development of this virtual and individualistic spirituality.