Watch Evening News weeknights at 6:30 p.m. ET.
TYLER, Texas (ChurchMililtant.com) - A Texas bishop is calling for Eucharistic processions to battle the coronavirus, even as fellow bishops are canceling Masses and banning the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue.
On Wednesday, Bp. Joseph Strickland of the diocese of Tyler tweeted, "I call on every Catholic priest to lead a simple Eucharistic Procession around your Church sometime before the Feast of St Joseph, March 19, for repentance, Christ’s healing hand on the Coronavirus & that all men may be Godly, manly sons & disciples of His Son Jesus Christ."
I call on every Catholic priest to lead a simple Eucharistic Procession around your Church sometime before the Feast of St Joseph, March 19, for repentance, Christ’s healing hand on the Coronavirus & that all men may be Godly, manly sons & disciples of His Son Jesus Christ.— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) March 11, 2020
Strickland's plan of having Our Eucharistic Lord battle the coronavirus mirrors the actions taken by Pope St. Gregory the Great to battle the plague in the sixth century. In response to the plague devastating Rome, Gregory led processions and prayers of repentance through the streets of Rome.
The procession, in which more than 80 participants died, ended near what's called Castel Sant'Angelo, or Hadrian's mausoleum. Participants give the following account of what happened next:
As the procession neared the Vatican, the participants all saw St. Michael the archangel standing upon the cupola of Hadrian's mausoleum as he sheathed his flaming sword. It was a sign that the chastisement had come to an end, and at once the heaviness in the air abated and the air itself seemed to freshen and clear. Indeed, at that moment the plague ended as the faithful rejoiced and lifted up their voices to thank the Mother of God.
The spiritual approach of Strickland and Gregory stands in stark contrast to the approach of prelates like Seattle's Abp. Paul Etienne, who is canceling all Masses indefinitely. In a video released Wednesday, Etienne told parishioners they'll have to pray without Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
This epidemic is going to continue to spread, said Etienne, going on to add, "So I am going to ask that all of our parishes in western Washington, in the Archdiocese of Seattle, effective today, suspend the celebration publicly of the Eucharist."
As the first U.S. bishop to close parishes owing to fear of coronavirus, Etienne added, "I want to just encourage you, in a very deeply spiritual way, to pray with confidence, to pray with faith, to pray with hope, that the Lord accompany us during this, and that the Lord protect us as well."
Meanwhile, the Polish bishops are also bucking the trend and calling for more Masses to be offered during the coronavirus scare. In a press release published March 10, Poznań Abp. Stanisław Gądecki noted that hospitals treat bodily diseases while churches treat spiritual diseases.
"That is why it is unimaginable for us not to pray in our churches," said the chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference.
Speaking in similar spiritual terms, Peruvian Abp. José Antonio Eguren Anselmi of the Piura archdiocese announced on Saturday that churches will remain open and that parishioners won't be forced to receive the Blessed Sacrament in the hand.
"Churches are places of salvation and healing where we welcome who life itself is — Jesus Christ, our Lord," said Eguren. "Throughout history when great plagues struck humanity, churches remained open and the Christians kept helping the sick."