Greetings to all of you my brother Oblates and to the members of our Oblate family. I am here in Brazil in visitation and the Oblates here, also send their greetings. I send a short message now regarding the coronavirus COVID-19. I think it is a moment of solidarity, of prayer and of hope.
Solidarity first of all among ourselves and with the people. We are in the poorest areas of the world and we journey with our brothers and sisters. We know that at this time it is important that we be close to them to support them, to console them; and in solidarity to follow the orientations of authorities both civil and religious.
The second thing I would like to say is that this is a time of prayer. The situation creates a certain type of Lent for us, without large groups of people getting together. And it is time for reading the Word of God, meditating on it and prayer. And we believe in the power of prayer and also our own responsibility to combat this illness.
The third word I would like to say is that of hope. We know a crisis is always a time of hope, a time of opportunity. A time to gather together and be generous and caring for one another and providing pastoral care and reaching out to one another to offer help, assistance and support.
I think of our own Founder. I believe it is in 1814 that Napoleon had sent thousands of Austrian prisoners of war to southern France. The diocesan chaplain caring for them caught the sickness, I believe it was typhoid and he died and our Founder stepped in and offered his own services to the diocese to care for those prisoners of war. And in his pastoral ministry he himself contracted the typhoid. We know on March 14 1814, St. Eugene received the last rights because death looked imminent. His little group of young people the “solidarity of young Christians”, gathered together and in the church of the Magdalene before the statue of our Lady of Grace and they said the rosary every evening for him. By the beginning of May, he was recuperating. So we know the power of prayer. We see in our Founder the courageous witness to help those who were sick in the midst of them and himself contracting that sickness. And that gives us courage, it gives us hope in this moment to be generous missionaries.
Let us pray for one another. When I return to Rome, I hope we will have a more formal communication to the Congregation. God bless you all and we ask the intercession of Mary Immaculate, St Joseph in this special month of March and of our Founder St. Eugene de Mazenod to intercede for us. Thank you.