The authorities check that nobody leaves their house. Only in the past few days have those who have a job outside been allowed to leave the village. Masses and religious activities canceled until further notice by the Religious Affairs Office. A picture of daily life in a village in central China, at the heart of the coronavirus epidemic.
by Padre Pietro
Rome (AsiaNews) – For almost a month, the Chinese have lived in isolation in their homes because of the coronavirus epidemic: they cannot go out, visit neighbors or friends, or talk to anyone on the street. Every two days, one person per family can go out to buy basic necessities. Entry and exit from their village is under control. These are some of the aspects of village life in central China shared with AsiaNews by Fr. Pietro, the parish priest. On the orders of the Religious Affairs Office and on the advice of the bishops, parish life has been stopped: no masses, not even on Sundays, and no meetings or activities. Families gather at home to read the Bible, pray for Wuhan’s heroic doctors and nurses, asking God to save China and convert people. Peter also tells of the fear that fills people’s hearts, kept in the dark and forced to obey, and launches an appeal: “I ask you to pray to the mercy of God that this disaster ends as soon as possible, so that we can go back to our normal life and our work “.
The Chinese New Year of 2020 has come totally unexpectedly. From the beginning of the year until today, time seems to be suspended. All our lives have been severely interrupted, work and study turned on its .
They ask us to stay indoors and not to go out and go around. They ask us to wear masks, wash our hands frequently, not participate in any group activities. But 20 days have already passed. The reality is a little different from what is said on TV, because we are increasingly isolated, almost completely isolated. In particular, in recent days, they asked us to leave the village [because of the resumption of work – ed]. They measured everyone’s temperature and asked everyone to register with our identity card. If you are an employee, you must show the certificate of your company when you enter or leave the village; if you are not an employee, you are forced to stay at home, you are not allowed to move around, you cannot converse on the street, you cannot visit friends and neighbors. Every two days, one person per family can leave the village to buy what is needed.
Fortunately, Chinese people have a habit of storing a lot of food and vegetables around New Year’s Eve. So when the coronavirus came, what we had already stored was enough. But over time, we have less and less food and vegetables. I think there will be a lot of people going out to buy things in the near future. In this way many people will meet in markets or supermarkets and have contact with each other. This is what many fear, but we must do it. People are afraid. We don’t know what will happen and when this disaster will pass. As a result we live with terror of the unknown each and every day. There are also people who are not aware of the disaster. Sometimes they live as if there is no problem, and this increases the chances of infection.
Of course, all the activities of our parish have been stopped. We canceled daily mass and other parochial activities. Every Sunday we ask the faithful to meet in the family to read the Bible, to pray for the medical staff, especially those of Wuhan, to pray for the conversion of people. We lack the professional tools to give people the opportunity to follow the mass media live on TV, as they do in Hong Kong and Macau. But I learned that some priests use their cell phone to transmit the mass they celebrate. But I find it a bit funny for the faithful to attend mass with their cell phones in their hands while they sit on the sofa. For my part, I find it more appropriate to encourage the faithful to read the Bible and pray together. After all, the coronavirus will pass and the end of the world is not so close! If the end of the world comes, it is better to read the Bible than to attend mass on a mobile phone.
Since the day we canceled the masses, until today, the Department of Religions has issued documents which warn us that we cannot resume celebrating mass until further notice: we must wait for them to tell us. I find it so strange that all our religious activities are controlled by them in such a widespread way! Whether mass is done or not, we must always follow their plans.
This is our everyday life. People are distressed: they fear that they and their families will be infected with the virus; others are waiting with the hope that the disaster will end soon, others still are worried because they need to find a job and commit themselves to supporting the life of their family.
I ask you to pray to the mercy of God for this disaster to end as soon as possible so that we Chinese can return to our normal life and work.