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Since mid-March, public Masses have stopped in the United States, and many priests have taken to streaming their private Masses on the internet, but few people are interested.
A new report published by the American Perspectives Society, "Fear, Frustration and Faith: Americans Respond to the Coronavirus Outbreak," shows only 36% of Catholics are participating in livestreamed religious services.
Pope Francis' Masses, streamed live daily on YouTube, get between 10- and 20 thousand daily views, over 30 thousand for Sunday Mass and over 400 thousand views for Palm Sunday.
But for other Masses streamed online, the number of viewers is significantly lower — all this despite more people praying due to the Wuhan virus.
According to economist and researcher Jeanet Bentzen, since the beginning of March, "prayer" has become one of Google's top search terms and "the rise in prayer intensity supersedes what the world has seen for years."
But some are worried. Rhode Island Bp. Thomas Tobin tweeted:
I wonder — after the crisis is over and public Masses resume, will people realize how much they need and missed the sacraments and hurry to church again, or will they have grown lax and complacent and stay away for good? I pray for the former; I fear the latter.
With the number of Catholics attending Masses dropping to nearly zero in the last month — but more people praying during the virus crisis — it's not known if people will be back in the pews when churches reopen.