Online Masses and spiritual communion aren’t the Church

Pope Francis is calling online Masses and spiritual communion “dangerous”.

His concern is that detached from the church, God’s people and the Sacraments, the COVID-19 lockdown may cause people to live the faith only for themselves.

After dedicating Sunday’s Mass to expectant mothers, whose needs are in his prayers during the pandemic, Francis focused his homily on faith and the Church during this time of isolation.

Online Masses and spiritual communion are available, the Church is “in a difficult situation that the Lord is allowing,” he noted.

“But the ideal of the church is always with the people and with the sacraments — always.”

Although a number of faith-based initiatives, Masses and prayers are available online, and the faithful have been encouraged to make an act of spiritual Communion, “this is not the church,” Francis said.

One’s relationship with Jesus “is intimate, it is personal, but it is in a community,” he stressed.

As the Gospels show, Jesus’ disciples always lived their relationship with the Lord as a community.

They gathered “at the table, a sign of community. It was always with the sacrament, with bread.”

“I am saying this because someone made me reflect on the danger of this moment we are living, this pandemic that has made all of us communicate, even in a religious sense, through the media.”

As an example, he said even though when he broadcasts his morning Mass people are in communio, they are not “together”.

Spiritual Communion at Mass “is not the church”.

Francis said a bishop had “scolded him” and made him think more deeply about the danger of celebrating Mass without the presence and participation of the general public.

Rather than celebrate Easter Mass at an “empty” St. Peter’s Basilica, the bishop asked Francis why.

When “St. Peter’s is so big, why not put 30 people at least so people can be seen” in the congregation, he wondered?

Francis said at first he didn’t understand what the bishop was saying.

He and the bishop spoke together and the bishop explained to Francis he should be careful not make the church, the sacraments and the people of God something that is only experienced or distributed online.

“The church, the sacraments and the people of God are concrete,” Francis realised.

Our relationship with God must also stay concrete, as the apostles lived it.

We need to experience that relationship as a community and with the people of God, not lived in a selfish way as individuals. Nor should we live it in a “viral” way that is spread only online.

“May the Lord teach us this intimacy with him, this familiarity with him, but in the church, with the sacraments, with the holy faithful people of God,” Francis concluded.


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News category: World.

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