KOCHI: “The roads wear a deserted look. Hardly a few people are seen in front of stores. People have been confined within the four walls of their congested apartments for more than a month. My only routine is praying alone at the San Rocco church in Siano, Salerno,” said Sr Regina Thuruthiyil, a Malayali nun and a social worker in Italy, sharing her feelings on Easter eve.
For the first time since the era of Christians being confined to the catacombs, escaping the roving eyes of persecuting Roman authorities, the believers are unable to attend the Easter ceremonies at the Vatican.
“Vatican City looks empty due to the lockdown announced in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sight of the city streets where the faithful usually gather in hordes spreads the clouds of gloom in the mind of every Catholic. This is the time we should reach Vatican City and St Peter’s Square with the inner eyes of faith,” she said.
Sr Regina, who is a native of Anakkara in Idukki, has been in Italy for the past 20 years. “It’s disheartening that around 100 priests, including the chaplain, lost their lives due to COVID-19 infection. The words of a nun in her deathbed that she still wants to serve the people who test positive resonate the resolve of the faithful in the fight against COVID-19,” she said.
“I have been in touch with the Keralites here and they are safe. Several Malayalis were admitted to hospitals in North Italy. But their condition is stable. We will contact them through the mobile phone. The Italian government is providing better treatment facilities and medicines to all,” she said.
According to her, the Pope will celebrate Easter Mass on Sunday at 11 am at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica without the physical presence of the faithful.
“Usually, thousands of faithful turn out for the celebration. It’s distressing for everyone. But the situation demands us to stay away from celebrations and mass gatherings,” she said.
‘Painful that faithful can’t attend Holy Week prayers’
“It is painful that the faithful are not able to attend Holy Week prayers. Holy Mass is celebrated with the participation of a maximum of seven people. Live streaming of Holy Week services through TV and the internet is the only option before us,” said Sr Regina.
In Italy, youngsters visit elderly relatives with family and exchange wishes and gifts during Easter. Children visit their grandparents at their ancestral homes. However, with the freedom of movement restricted, elders are left to celebrate Easter in isolation.
“Many youngsters who spoke to me these days shared their grief of not being able to visit their grandparents,” she said.
“Due to the lockdown restrictions, people can’t go out except to buy food. Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Piedmont and Veneto Venetia are the worst affected regions. As per the official records, 98,273 people have tested positive, 30,455 patients have recovered and 18,849 died till April 10,” said Sr Regina.