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Coronavirus: Church leaders encourage people to aid those feeling isolated and in distress

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Archbishop Michael Jackson

Archbishop Michael Jackson

Bishop John McDowell

Bishop John McDowell

Bishop Noel Treanor

Bishop Noel Treanor

Bishop Donal McKeown

Bishop Donal McKeown

Archbishop Michael Jackson

Christians across Northern Ireland have been encouraged to help their neighbours by church leaders, as the community rallies in its attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus.

In a joint statement, the Church of Ireland's incoming Archbishop of Armagh John McDowell and Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said people north and south of the border are going through a "period of considerable distress".

Recommending that all parishes take the necessary steps in self-isolation guidelines, the pair also encouraged people to make sure that those in lonely and vulnerable positions do not feel abandoned in the weeks and months ahead.

"That will require some ingenuity on the part of clergy and laypeople but may well be made easier by the many virtual ways of being alongside and remaining in contact with others that technology affords," they stated.

"It will also provide an opportunity for a younger generation of tech-savvy people to reach out to those who are more immediately affected by isolation.

"There will also be many new opportunities to do practical things for one's neighbours. Parishioners who have more freedom of movement may wish to volunteer to help out in practical ways.

"Neighbouring parishes should consider how they can work together to best serve all those who will need assistance."

The Bishop of the Diocese of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, said that the Covid-19 outbreak is a reminder that we are all part of one global family.

As a society, the public will face the current fears and anxieties together, he added.

"This is a time for us to bring a message of hope and to care for those who are feeling isolated and distressed," stated Bishop Treanor in his pastoral letter.

"We hold in prayer our civic leaders as they face indefinable challenges at local, national and international level.

"They carry great responsibility and are entrusted with giving courageous direction in addressing the current health situation."

Bishop Treanor also heaped praise on those working in Northern Ireland's health service, as well as scientists, counsellors and volunteers.

"As fellow citizens, we know that changes to current medical provision and to hospital chaplaincy services will be necessary," he continued.

"We also know, however, that such disruption in the short term will enable care to be directed to those most in need."

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, said that now is not the time for "selfishness" and urged those attending church to take the necessary precautions so as not to spread the virus.

He also stated that communities must support one another.

"As the Samaritan woman in the Gospel discovered, a few of the right words can make all the difference," he added. "I have encouraged all our parishes to keep the churches open for prayer and to provide opportunities for counselling and the Sacrament of Reconciliation or the Stations of the Cross in solidarity with those who suffer.

"Webcams offer a great means to beam prayer into people's homes throughout the day.

"Outdoor grottos can be great places for people to gather on a daily basis to pray the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

"I know from walking around here in Derry that lots of people want to stop and talk, to ask advice or ask for prayers.

"I know that our generous priests will do their best to be available and visible, offering time and the chance to pray.

"There are lots of people who feel like the thirsty Israelites in the desert or like the hurting Samaritan woman. They want support."

Belfast Telegraph