Amid crisis, God goes online | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 21, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:28 AM, March 21, 2020

Amid crisis, God goes online

As coronavirus closes churches, synagogues and mosques worldwide, religious leaders are taking faith online to ensure God's word gets to the millions marooned by the pandemic.

Services are being streamed on Instagram, prayers posted by video link and timeless texts shared on cellphones to bring spiritual support to the hundreds of thousands of believers denied a place of worship.

"Because I am not physically close to you, it doesn't mean I can't be emotionally close to you," said Miles McPherson, a senior pastor at the Rock Church in San Diego, California, which moved to online streaming on Sunday.

"It's better when you are with somebody in a room … but the online services in one way give us opportunity to be with people more because we are with them in their pocket," he said holding a mobile phone during an online video interview.

With almost 250,000 infections and more than 10,000 deaths so far, the epidemic has stunned the world and drawn comparisons with traumas such as World War Two and the 1918 Spanish flu.

In Italy - home to a large and devout Catholic population - priests have turned to technology to support some of the communities worst hit by the rapid viral spread.

When news broke on Feb. 23 that all Masses in and around the northern city of Milan were to be suspended, priest Fabio Zanin came up with a new way to stay in touch with his flock.

Armed with a mobile phone and help from young parishioners, he set up an Instagram account and started streaming daily functions held behind closed doors on social media.

The highly contagious respiratory disease that originated in China has pushed governments on every continent to impose draconian lockdowns, hitting sport, shopping, travel and faith.

From Japan to the United States, many religious groups have suspended services and moved faith online, trying out new ways to stay close to their communities, as holy sites and public spaces shut, changing the face of many world cities. Churches have historically been a place of sanctuary in times of crisis and closures have caused disarray.

 

Church forgives sins

The Catholic Church yesterdaty granted forgiveness -- under certain conditions -- for the sins of the faithful struck by the novel coronavirus. A decree published by the Vatican also covers healthcare workers and those who pray for their wellbeing. Relatives who care for their sick family members are also forgiven. The condition involves the sick saying a certain number of prayers. Those who pray for the caregivers' wellbeing must also read the Bible "for at least half an hour".

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