A VIRUS GOES VIRAL: CAUTION VS FEAR – ITALY SHOWS JUST HOW CRAZY CORONAVIRUS PANIC CAN GET

A VIRUS GOES VIRAL: CAUTION VS FEAR

I don’t know if you are keeping up with the coronavirus and Italy news. We are all a little confounded as what we see as fear and panic in the US, US groups cancelling trips to Rome in March, etc. but as far as I have heard, no similar indications from other countries. Life seems to be normal here (it is always quieter in January and February) notwithstanding CDC reports about Italy and the coronavirus.

In fact, people are amazed at some of the reports coming from the US, especially the fact that a few US universities closed their campuses in Florence and sent the students home when, in fact, there seemed to be no rationale to do so. Closings seem to have been based on pressures by school administrators and parents, and many of the students here are frustrated and disappointed at the possibility that their Rome campus might close. They sense panic from mainly the US, a panic or fear we do not generally see in visitors to Italy from other countries.

Obviously what I am saying is not scientific and I have not gone all over the city to do a survey all but I do see restaurants doing business, busses filled, Masses being celebrated in places other than the north, people doing their usual marketing, no runs on food, etc. I have no idea if there is a run on masks simply because I have not asked or walked around checking on pharmacies but I may just try to do that. In any case, authorities and doctors, especially in the US, are saying to wear masks only if you are sick, not as a block to becoming ill. So far, I have seen only the occasional mask in Rome, not high numbers.

I do not mean in anyway to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus. We must be vigilant, take precautions (washing hands, using hand sanitizer, coughing into elbows, etc), follow the advice of experts and doctors and yes, avoid venues frequented by large numbers of people such as sporting events in order to avoid contagion.

What is really strange is that no one seems to be minimally concerned about flu-related statistics ! And the flu, by the way, can be transmitted the same way as the coronavirus, so the same precautions should be taken but no one is writing about that. If anything should cause fear, it’s probably the flu.

Some flu statistics (from the CDC):
· Key Updates for Week 8, ending February 22, 2020 – Key indicators that track flu activity remain high but decreased for the second week in a row. Severity indicators (hospitalizations and deaths) remain moderate to low overall, but hospitalization rates differ by age group, with high rates among children and young adults.
· CDC estimates that so far this season (a season is usually considered to start in October and end towards the end of March or early April), there have been at least 32 million flu illnesses, 310,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 deaths from flu. (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm)

310,000 hospitalizations! 18,000 deaths in just the US!

Why have those numbers not frightened people? No fear or panic about the hospitalizations or deaths! Why are people not advised to take precautions all throughout a flu season?

And flu news from Italy (that has its equivalent of the CDC):

(ANSA) – Rome, January 22 – The Higher Health Institute (ISS) said Wednesday that 488,000 people were hit in Italy by the flu in the third week of January. It said that this took the number of people to have been hit by this season’s flu virus up to 2.768 million.

Since the start of flu season in October 2019, 2,768,000 cases across the country have been confirmed by laboratory tests, according to data from InfluNet published on January 19. A total of 488,000 cases were reported last week alone, signalling that flu season is hitting its peak in January as predicted. 240 deaths have so far been reported, slightly lower than the expected 258. Most of the fatal cases are elderly patients who suffered complications after contracting the virus.

What is life like now in Italy? Here is a well-balanced article that should not, in reasonable, clear-thinking people, induce fear or panic about living in or coming to Italy:

ITALY SHOWS JUST HOW CRAZY CORONAVIRUS PANIC CAN GET

Italians refused to go to Chinese restaurants and shops when the virus first emerged. Now they are being shunned worldwide. The stigma is spreading faster than the virus itself.

ROME–Ah, the smell of hand sanitizer in a public space. At least that’s the first thing you notice almost anywhere in Italy right now. The next, of course, is the masks and furrowed brows. While words like “epicenter” and “emergency” seem to tell the story of a massive plague gripping the country, the reality is that the real problem is not fear of catching the virus, but fear of getting caught up in the global reaction to it.

Even while European Union health ministers braved the “threat” and came to Rome this week to announce solidarity and plead that there is no need to close the borders to stem the spread, several countries and lots of companies are doing it anyway.

Late Friday, the Trump administration raised the safety threat level to the ominous “level 3,” which will almost certainly set off a global panic attack about this country.

Yet, even so, half a dozen American study abroad programs had already yanked their students out of Florence even though the city is not part of the current lockdown and there are only a couple cases in all of Tuscany. Most of the rest followed suit after Trump’s heightened alert. British Airways cancelled direct flights to Milan citing a “decreased demand” and Israel and Mauritius banned all flights from Italy no matter where they take off from. An Italian journalist even got shut out of a hotel he had reserved in Greece just because he was coming from Rome. Greece! How could you?

Italy’s hotel federation says that just one week into the crisis, the cancellation rate for reservations has shot to 70 percent in Milan and 40 percent in Rome. Those numbers will skyrocket now that the U.S. has told Americans to “reconsider” travel to Italy. That’s bad news for this tourism-dependent country since one of the biggest tourist seasons is Easter, a few weeks away.

But does cancelling your trip to the bel paese make sense? The experts say no.

Dr. Adrian Hyzler, chief medical officer of Healix International, says it is far too late to restrict travel to and from Italy and other places. The virus is now in nearly 60 countries, and he says trying to single out a few with higher numbers of infections is counterproductive. “You cannot stop air travel without huge repercussions,” he told The Daily Beast. “To restrict travel now would be to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted! And anyway, how on earth would you do it on the continent? It’s practically impossible.”

Hyzler notes that the World Health Organization put out a statement saying travel restrictions should be “consistent and proportionate to local risk assessment” which means cancelling travel to a city like Rome, where just three people were infected, including two Chinese tourists and a researcher who flew in from China who have since recovered completely, doesn’t make sense.

Still, the number of cancellations will almost definitely strain, if not destroy, the smaller tourism entities. “The world’s governments are trying desperately to calm the understandable panic as this would paralyze the world, with much greater knock-on effects for health care, poverty and the economy.”

It is hard to deny that infected Italians are spreading the virus. The first cases in at least 14 countries, including Mexico, Brazil and Nigeria, have been infected Italians who traveled to those regions from northern Italy, possibly subjecting everyone on their flight along the way. But experts argue that it would have likely happened anyway, it’s just that the Italians got there first.

Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch suggested to The Atlantic this week that trying to stop the unstoppable will only make it seem worse. “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable,” he said, adding that many who test positive won’t even know they have it. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic.”

It could also be a case of what you don’t know really won’t hurt you. In Italy, authorities concede that perhaps they’ve gone a little crazy with the number of tests they have carried out, which has topped 12,000 so far with more than 821 positive results, compared to under 500 carried out in all of the U.S. The civil protection agency in Italy gives daily statistics, like they do when there is a major earthquake or other natural disaster. But the number of infected now also includes the number of positive cases where the person has no symptoms at all in an attempt, it would seem, to keep the population yet unaffected from freaking out completely. The figure is near half of all positive cases who wouldn’t even know they were carrying the virus had someone not stuck a swab down their throat or up their nose.

The more than 20 deaths so far in the country all occurred in patients who had serious health conditions. They most likely died “with” coronavirus, not because of it.

Still, the world is panicking and now those Italians who wouldn’t go into Chinese restaurants when the virus first broke the confines of China are feeling xenophobia against them. When four Italian guests tested positive in a resort in Tenerife in the Canary Islands off Spain, travel companies started calling other Italians to say they needed medical certificates if they lived in the north of the country. Would you feel uncomfortable if an Italian group checked in to the hotel room next to you?

“In just over 48 hours we have gone from a safe country, without a single valid or logical reason, to be a European cluster,” Italy’s tourism federation said in a statement Friday. “Part of that is due to hysterical communication that does not take into account the real security conditions of the country. The consequences are an avalanche of cancellations, missed reservations, and closing of the Italian travel market that have no justification.”

It must be noted that while Italy will have a hard time denying that it is not part of the problem at the moment, closing the country off is almost certainly not the solution.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/italy-shows-just-how-crazy-coronavirus-panic-can-get

SEVEN YEARS AGO, BENEDICT XVI RESIGNED THE PAPACY – VATICAN INSIDER: BISHOP STEPHEN BERG OF PUEBLO – POPE FRANCIS FORMS CHILD PROTECTION TASK FORCE

SEVEN YEARS AGO, BENEDICT XVI RESIGNED THE PAPACY

In the midst of news stories from around the world that are dominated by the coronavirus, it is easy to forget that today, February 28, marks a unique day in the history of the Catholic Church, for it was 7 years ago today, almost at the very hour at which I am writing, that Pope Benedict XVI left Vatican City in a helicopter for Castelgandolfo, thus ending his papacy as he had announced on February 11.

There is a very young generation that would not have known that papacy, as recent as it was, but many more of us are experiencing the third, fourth or perhaps even fifth papacy of our lives, not counting the ultra brief pontificate of John Paul I.

For those of you who recall that day seven years ago, and those of you who did not experience the prayerful and yet tear-jerking moments of Benedict’s farewell to the cardinals of the Church and his leave taking of Vatican City, here are two links to the EWTN coverage of that historic day:
SAYING FAREWELL TO COLLEGE OF CARDINALS (and shaking hands with his successor, though no one knew who that would be on Feb.28) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUp0aTMJ3RU
BENEDICT’S FAREWELL TO VATICAN CITY . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvtBYIXc7YY

VATICAN INSIDER: BISHOP STEPHEN BERG OF PUEBLO

I hope you tune in to Vatican Insider this weekend and join me for Part II of my conversation with Bishop Stephen Berg of Pueblo, one of the more amazing stories of the many bishops I know and have interviewed. As you heard last week, he is the oldest of 10 children! He earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees in music, taught music and then for 14 was in the nursery business!

Bishop Berg entered the seminary in 1993 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1999 by his maternal uncle Bishop Joseph L. Charron, now the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa.

He tells us about his education and degrees, his early years as a priest, the special projects in his diocese, and his ad limina visit to Rome with the bishops of Region XIII, that is, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana and Utah. Also some interesting comments (what he could tell us!) about the bishops’ audience with Pope Francis.

I was blessed to have Bishop Berg to my home for dinner with 4 members of his staff, as you can see in these photos. One of the pictures was taken at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls basilica when, after Mass, the bishops descended into the confessio to pray at the tomb of St. Paul.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

POPE FRANCIS FORMS CHILD PROTECTION TASK FORCE

Following up on a plan announced at last year’s Meeting for the Protection of Minors in the Church, Pope Francis has launched a task force to help Bishops’ Conferences prepare and update child protection guidelines.
By Vatican News

Pope Francis has established a task force “in order to assist the Episcopal Conferences in the preparation and updating of guidelines for the protection of minors.” The intention to form such a group had already been announced by the Pope at last year’s Meeting for the Protection of Minors in the Church, which ran from 21-24 February 2019. One year later, after the details of the project had been worked out, Pope Francis has made the plan a reality.

Supervising committee
In a statement released on Friday, the Holy See Press Office explained that the task force will be supervised by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, together with the members of the organizing Committee for last year’s Meeting: Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay; Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago; Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and Deputy Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Father Hans Zollner, SJ, Dean of the Institute of Psychology of the Pontifical Gregorian University and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Membership of the task force
The task force itself is composed of a Coordinator, Dr Andrew Azzopardi, head of the Safeguarding Commission of the Maltese Bishops (established by the Archdiocese of Malta, the Diocese of Gozo, and the Conference of Religious Major Superiors); and a number of canon law experts of different nationalities. The Coordinator will report quarterly to the Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State on the work undertaken by the task force.

Providing assistance to Episcopal Conferences
According to communiqué, the task force will assist Episcopal Conferences, as well as Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life, in preparing and updating guidelines for the protection of minors, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and current canonical legislation, especially the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.

The task force’s mandate will last for two years, beginning 24 February 2020. It will be supported by a special fund established by benefactors.

Episcopal Conferences, Institutes of Religious, and Societies of Apostolic Life can request assistance at the following email address: taskforce@org.va.

COMING TO ROME? HERE ARE SOME TRAVEL TIPS

Apologies to my colleague Daniel Ibanez whose photos of the general audience I used yesterday in my column but failed to credit him! Grazie, Dani!

Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni sent a brief message to journalists, stating, “This morning the Holy Father did not go to the Lateran for the penitential liturgy with the Roman clergy. Due to a slight indisposition, he preferred to remain close to Santa Marta (residence); other commitments proceed regularly.”

Pope Francis was scheduled to go to St. John Lateran basilica this morning for a penitential liturgy with the clergy of the diocese of Rome, In his stead, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar of the diocese of Rome, read the Pope’s prepared talk that was later posted on the Vaticannews website. A meeting scheduled to take place before the Pope’s departure for the Lateran was held with members of the “Global Catholic Climate Movement” in a small room of the Paul VI Hall.

COMING TO ROME? HERE ARE SOME TRAVEL TIPS

Every time I go from my house to EWTN offices on Via della Conciliazione or to Vatican City, I pass by or through the colonnades of St. Peter’s Square and often walk through or close to the square. And every day, rain or shine, there are dozens of people (99 percent are men) accosting visitors, asking them, for example, if they want to “skip the line” to the Vatican Museums, the basilica, etc.

Frequently, I stop and watch these ticket hawkers. Occasionally I ask them who they are, what they are doing, who they represent, etc. With very rare exceptions, they are more or less self-appointed. Some might actually have a relationship with a travel agency and their job is to tell you to go to that agency to get your museum entrance tickets, etc. (tickets that will, in the long run, cost more than the official ones). These hawkers are more annoying than anything else.

TIP: ignore the hawkers and go to official websites for all the legitimate prices and information.

Maybe you are coming to the Eternal City – or perhaps you have family members and friends who have Rome on their schedule. If so, the following information is vital – it will save you time and money. Spread the word – send the link to this column to friends.

For all info on visiting the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Gardens and the weekly excursion to Castelgandolfo, go to the Museums official site. You will see prices, itineraries and be able to reserve your visit, thus, no standing in line!  http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en.html

For papal audiences or Masses (always FREE) you can request tickets through the Prefecture of the Papal Household. They have changed the procedure for requesting tickets and basically have made it more difficult but, as the Roman say, pazienza! http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/index_en.html

You may also contact St. Patrick’s church in Rome – the church for Catholic Americans and English-speaking Catholics: https://stpatricksamericanrome.org/index.php/pilgrims-in-rome/papal-audiences

For a great hop on-hop off bus experience around Rome I recommend ORP, Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi:
https://www.operaromanapellegrinaggi.org/en/roma-cristiana/open-bus

For city busses in Rome, you do have to have tickets to travel. That may sounds silly but you cannot imagine the people who get on without a ticket and then are surprised when ATAC bus officials fine them for not having one. There are very few busses with machines onboard for buying tickets. Tickets may be purchases at coffee bars, tobacco stores (they sell tons of things in addition to cigarettes) and some souvenir stores. IMPORTANT: Tickets must be validated (stamped) once on the bus. There are yellow and black machines in the front and back of busses for this. https://www.atac.roma.it/index.asp?lingua=ENG

On my blog, Joan’s Rome, you will find a link on the right side of the page that has tons more info for visiting the Vatican, etc: CLICK HERE FOR PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON VISITING THE VATICAN

TICKETS FOR GENERAL AUDIENCES, PAPAL EVENTS – POPE AT AUDIENCE: “DISCONNECT FROM TV, SMART PHONES AND CONNECT TO THE GOSPEL IN LENT”

TICKETS FOR GENERAL AUDIENCES, PAPAL EVENTS

For over 20 years, first at Santa Susanna and now at St. Patrick’s, the Paulist Fathers have made tickets for papal general audiences available to parishioners and visitors who come to the church for American Catholics in Rome. Every Tuesday morning, our secretary Rosanna went to the Vatican to collect the tickets she had previously requested and would hand out later that afternoon at the church.

Two weeks ago she requested about 200 tickets and the Vatican gave her – reluctantly – 20! Thus, that Tuesday afternoon only 20 of the several hundred people who came to St. Patrick’s could get tickets. What do you say to the others? You tell them the Vatican has changed their policy.

St. Patrick’s is proceeding as usual, notwithstanding changes by the Prefecture of the Papal Household. Rosanna will go to the Vatican on Tuesday mornings and will get whatever number of tickets they give her (hopefully the number she requested so pilgrims do not remain disappointed) and then distribute those on Tuesday afternoon. Here is what our website says: https://stpatricksamericanrome.org/index.php/pilgrims-in-rome/papal-audiences

I went to the website of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, the office that gives out tickets, and it explains how tickets may be ordered and offers a form to be filled out online and then faxed to (+39) 06 698 85863 or mailed to: Prefecture of the Papal Household, 00120 Vatican City State. The Prefecture does not have an email address.

POPE AT AUDIENCE: “DISCONNECT FROM TV, SMART PHONES AND CONNECT TO THE GOSPEL IN LENT”

Pope Francis held this week’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday, reflecting on how the coming forty days are a good time to make room for the Word of God in our lives.
By Linda Bordoni (vaticannews)

“Lent,” Pope Francis told some 12,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, “is a time in which to turn off the television and open the Bible.”

During his catechesis for the weekly general audience the Pope reflected on the 40 days spent by Jesus in the desert as He prepared for His public ministry and said that, in a sense, it is a time for us to imitate Jesus and seek a place of silence, where we are free to hear the Lord’s word and experience His call.

He said, “In the desert one hears the Word of God, one finds intimacy with God and the love of the Lord,” noting that Jesus taught us how to seek the Father, who speaks to us in silence.

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The pollution of verbal violence
He remarked on the fact that, for many of us, it is not easy to be in silence as we live in an environment that is “polluted by too much verbal violence,” by so many “offensive and harmful words” that are amplified by the internet.

“Lent is a time to disconnect from cell phones and connect to the Gospel,” he said, recalling that when he was a child there was no television, but his family would make a point of not listening to the radio.

“It is the time to give up useless words, chatter, rumors, gossip, and talk and to speak directly to the Lord,” he said. It is a time in which to dedicated ourselves to an ecology of the heart.

In a world in which we often struggle to distinguish the voice of the Lord, Jesus calls us into the desert and invites us to listen to what matters, Pope Francis explained. And he recalled that when the devil tempted Him, Jesus replied, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

A place of silence and dialogue with the Lord
Thus, he continued, the desert, represented by the journey of Lent, is a place of life, a place in which to dialogue in silence with the Lord who gives us life.

The Pope also reflected on how an important part of our Lenten desert experience is the practice of fasting, which trains us to recognize, in simplicity of heart, how often our lives are spent in empty and superficial pursuits.

“Fasting is being capable of giving up the superfluous and going to the essential. Fasting is not only losing weight, it is seeking the beauty of a simpler life.”

The Pope also noted that the solitude of the desert increases our sensitivity to those who quietly cry out for help.

“Even today, close to us, there are many deserts, many lonely people: they are the lonely and the abandoned. How many poor and old people live near us in silence, marginalized and discarded.”

A journey of charity
The desert of Lent leads us to them, he continued. It is a journey of charity towards those who are weak and in need. Pope Francis concluded his catechesis reiterating that the path through the Lenten desert is made up of “prayer, fasting, works of mercy”, so that it may lead us “from death to life.”

Francis said, “If we enter the desert with Jesus, we will leave it at Easter when the power of God’s love renews life. Just like those deserts that bloom in spring with buds and plants suddenly sprouting from the sand, if we follow Jesus, our deserts will also bloom.

Pope Francis also reiterated his closeness to those who are infected by Covid-19, to doctors, nurses, hospital staff and authorities dealing with the crisis. He said, “I wish, again, to express my closeness to those who are ill with coronavirus and to health-care workers who are caring for them.” He also turned his thoughts to civil authorities and to all those who are involved in assisting patients and in containing the spread of the virus.

ASH WEDNESDAY WITH POPE FRANCIS AT SANT’ANSELMO

ASH WEDNESDAY WITH POPE FRANCIS AT SANT’ANSELMO

Fr Bernard Eckerstorfer is the Rector of the Pontifical University of Sant’Anselmo. He says he is looking forward to participating in the Ash Wednesday liturgical ceremonies with Pope Francis.

(vaticannews)

On Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis will preside at the traditional “stational” liturgy for the beginning of Lent in Rome.

Following an ancient custom revived by Pope St John XXIII, Pope Francis will join the faithful at the church of Sant’Anselmo on the Aventine Hill. From there, the Holy Father will lead a penitential procession to the station church, the nearby Basilica of Santa Sabina, where he will celebrate the Mass for Ash Wednesday, with the blessing and imposition of ashes.

In addition to faithful from the diocese of Rome, the liturgy will be attended by numerous cardinals, bishops and clergy, as well as men and women religious, including the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina, and the Benedictine monks of Sant’Anselmo.

In this video, the rector of the Pontifical Athenaeum of Saint Anselm, Benedictine Father Bernhard Eckerstorfer, says he is looking forward to taking part in the liturgy with Pope Francis: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2020-02/ash-wednesday-liturgical-ceremony-with-pope-francis.html

FROM U.S. EMBASSY TO ITALY RE: CORONAVIRUS

FROM U.S. EMBASSY TO ITALY RE: CORONAVIRUS

(Sent February 23, 2020)

Location: Regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia

Event: The U.S. Embassy continues to monitor the health situation in Italy and recommends that individuals follow Italian health official guidance and avoid government-designated affected areas. Due to reduced staffing levels, the U.S. Consulate General in Milan has suspended routine visa services until March 2, 2020. Both routine and emergency American Citizen Services will continue at the Consulate General in Milan. Full consular services are also available at the Embassy in Rome and the Consulates General in Florence and Naples.

Officials count over 150 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy, the majority of which are in the Province of Lodi in the south of the Lombardy region. Two cases have been confirmed in Milan, and one each in Bergamo, Monza, and Turin. Cases have also been reported in the areas of Brescia, Cremona, and Pavia. Lombardy regional officials have cancelled schools for the week. City, regional and national officials continue to meet and assess the situation as more information becomes known.

Coronavirus infection rates are still very low, but those concerned that they are presenting multiple symptoms should contact 112 or 1500 to consult with Italian emergency healthcare professionals.

Actions to Take:
· Contact the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services for questions regarding COVID-19 at 888-407-4747 (Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 8:00pm EST).
· Consult the CDC website, for the most up-to-date information regarding enhanced screening procedures.
· Review the Department of State’s COVID-19 Travel Alert.
· Check with the airlines regarding any flight cancellations and/or restrictions on flying.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
· Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

VATICAN INSIDER: BISHOP STEPHEN BERG OF PUEBLO – THE CHURCH MARKS THE FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF PETER

I want to send greetings to Bishop Steven Lopes and all my friends in Texas who are members of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter as they celebrate their feast day tomorrow. Bishop Lopes, who worked years ago at the CDF, is the ordinary of this ordinariate. Auguri!

VATICAN INSIDER: BISHOP STEPHEN BERG OF PUEBLO

What a special guest I have for you this week, Bishop Stephen Berg of Pueblo. He has one of the more amazing stories of the many bishops I know and have interviewed. For starters, he is the oldest of 10 children! To learn what he has his Bachelor and Master’s degrees in will surprise you but you have to listen to the interview. What he did after teaching his beloved subject at a county college for a while will surprise you even more!

Bishop Berg entered the seminary in 1993 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1999 by his maternal uncle Bishop Joseph L. Charron, now the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa.

He tells us about his education and degrees, his early years as a priest, the special projects in his diocese, and his ad limina visit to Rome with the bishops of Region XIII, that is, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana and Utah. Also some interesting comments (what he could tell us!) about the bishops’ audience with Pope Francis.

I was blessed to have Bishop Berg to my home for dinner with 4 members of his staff, as you can see in these photos. One of the pictures was taken at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls basilica when, after Mass, the bishops descended into the confessio to pray at the tomb of St. Paul.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

THE CHURCH MARKS THE FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF PETER

February 22 is the feast of the Chair of Peter and great honor is paid to the first Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica on this day every year.

I try to go to St. Peter’s Basilica every year on this day as I find this such a special feast and celebration. If you are in Rome tomorrow, try to go to the basilica to see our first Pope dressed in his feast day finery.

A number of years ago, while working for the Vatican Information Service, I wanted to do a story on the Chair of Peter. To learn the history and background of this celebration, I interviewed several people in the Vatican, one of whom, Msgr. Michele Maccarrone, was an expert on the Chair of Peter. In fact, he gave me one of the few remaining copies of a 1985 issue of the Italian periodical, “Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia,” (Review of Church History in Italy) entirely dedicated to “The Chair of Peter, From Symbol to Relic.” He wrote part of that article and the footnotes make reference to his other works on the Chair of Peter.

What follows is from his story –

The special feast of the “cathedra” or Chair of St. Peter dates to the fourth century and honors and celebrates the primacy and authority of St. Peter. The word “cathedra” means seat or throne and is the root of the word cathedral, the church where a bishop has his seat from which he preaches and teaches.

A mixture of tradition, legend and belief held for many years that this was actually a double chair, parts of which dated back to the early days of Christianity and to St. Peter himself. This chair or cathedra has been studied over the centuries and the last time it was removed from its niche in the Bernini altar was a six-year period from 1968 to 1974 where studies pointed to a single chair whose oldest parts date to the sixth century. What appeared to be an outer or second chair was a covering that served both to protect the throne and to carry it in procession.

The Chair of St. Peter is actually a throne that Charles the Bald, the grandson of the Emperor Charlemagne, gave to Pope John VIII at the former’s coronation as emperor on Christmas Day 875. For many years the chair was used at liturgical events by Pope John and his successors: it was ensconced in Bernini’s Altar of the Chair in 1666.

Bernini’s masterful Altar of the Cathedra was executed between 1658 and 1666. A bronze throne, which encases the Chair of Peter, dominates the apse, above the marble altar. It is supported by four statues of bishops: two Fathers of the Latin Church, Sts. Ambrose and Augustine, and two from the Greek Church, Sts. Athanasius and John Chrysostom.

Above them, in the midst of gilt clouds, flights of angels and rays of sun is the Holy Spirit, illuminated by a stained glass window.

Notwithstanding its appearance of lightness and harmony, records show that more than 120 tons of bronze were used for this breathtaking monument. This altar is today still used for numerous liturgical celebrations.

What is so special about this feast day is that the Altar of the Chair is aglow for this one day a year with scores and scores of candles.

In addition, this is one of two days every year when the statue of a seated St. Peter, on the right side of the main aisle, is robed in ecclesiastical finery, including papal vestments, the triple tiara and a papal ring. The other day you may see St. Peter robes in this manner is June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, patrons of Rome.