With churches forced to close for Easter due to the coronavirus pandemic, Romania’s Prime Minister Ludovic Orban appealed to religious Romanians to use the occasion to reflect on what the future holds when the health crisis passes.
In his Easter message Saturday, Orban said he was encouraged that in spite of the challenges of the lockdown and disruption of daily life, Romanians were „kinder, more human, more empathetic and more generous.”
The Romanian Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics observe Easter this weekend. Under communism, the Eastern Rite Catholic Church was banned and its properties were confiscated.
Churchgoing has seen a revival in recent years and many Romanians are deeply religious and celebrate church feasts. About 87% of Romanians are Orthodox believers.
However, as the coronavirus pandemic spread through the country, church services were suspended under the state of emergency that came into effect in mid-March.
Despite pressure from some Orthodox clerics, the government said there will be no mass gatherings of people for the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening, a service normally attended by millions around the country.
Instead, Orthodox priests and volunteers will deliver, on request, the sacred light and the communion to people’s homes at around midnight, a measure aimed at containing the spread of the virus.
On Saturday, Romania has 8,418 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 417 deaths reported from the virus.
Orban noted that „this year we are celebrating our Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection in a totally different way to the way we celebrate it every year.”
“We will stay at home this year, we can’t go to church and take part in the Easter Vigil,” he said.
“Even if we can’t be at church, faith can help the feast reach deep into the heart of each one of us, and transform our homes into a church, a place where we can celebrate,” he said.
“We have been through hard moments. We face trials, we didn’t expect. Our life, our way of being changed radically,” he said.
„There are many things we considered normal and every day, that we can’t do them anymore,” he said referring to the restrictions imposed during the lockdown which will last until at least mid-May.
„Enjoy Easter and use this feast for a deep reflection on on what will happen when we get rid of this epidemic,” he said.
„I am confident that we will come out of these sacred holidays, kinder, more human, more empathetic and closer to one and other, more willing to carry out acts of generosity, more caring about problems other people have.”
„In this hard trial we are going through, we’ve seen more humanity, we’ve seen the spirit of sacrifice of those who are fighting in the front line against this virus and the generosity of many who are carrying out humanitarian campaigns to help those in need.”
President Klaus Iohannis also spoke Saturday, telling Romanians: „This year we manifest love to those dear to us by staying away from them,” he said.
„Let’s take on this sacrifice and find each other in the sacrament of Resurrection and in prayer to soothe the suffering of those who are sick and those who have been died in the epidemic.”