Across Europe churches offer empty facilities to help fight coronavirus

Across Europe churches offer empty facilities to help fight coronavirus

Catholic dioceses and religious orders across Europe are offering to turn Church facilities into spaces needed for health care or housing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Church leaders throughout Europe have been struggling to maintain Catholic religious devotions during enforced national lockdowns against the coronavirus.

They have also sought ways, in addition to regular aid from Caritas and other Catholic organisations, of making resources available for health and social services.

In Ukraine, Fr Lubomyr Javorski, finance officer of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, acknowledged the pastoral role of chaplains.

He said: “The Church also has many property resources which can be used during the pandemic.

“These facilities can be converted into hospitals, but also can be made available to physicians far from their workplaces, and to people returning from abroad with nowhere to spend their quarantine.”

Bishop Mario Iceta Gavicagogeascoa of Bilbao, Spain, said he, like other bishops had been forced to close local churches, but was now preparing some for pandemic victims.

“We’ve responded to the appeal of civil authorities by making facilities and buildings available,” Bishop Iceta said.

“The conversion of a religious congregation building here is already underway, and the authorities are studying how to prepare other diocesan properties,” he said.

Bishop Iceta said he was ready to resume his previous career as a doctor, if Pope Francis consented.

Field hospital

“The Church, as Pope Francis says, is a field hospital – isn’t this a favourable occasion to deploy the services of this hospital?” said the 55-year-old bishop, who trained as a surgeon before his ordination and sits on Bilbao’s Academy of Medical Sciences.

“I haven’t practiced medicine for a long time and would need to catch up on current advances,” he said.

“But if it were necessary and there was no better solution, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would offer to resume.”

In Italy, TV channels showed San Giuseppe Church at Seriate being used as a depository for coffins, which were later gathered by military trucks for cremation as local authorities struggled with the scale of deaths.

In Germany, one southern diocese said it had opened a telephone hotline for needs ranging from shopping to child care, while Benedictine nuns in Bavaria said this week they were manufacturing 100 reusable respiratory masks daily for local hospitals.

In Portugal, dioceses offered seminary rooms and other facilities to health professionals and civil protection teams.

The Catholic Ecclesia news agency reported this week that Portugal’s Guarda Diocese had turned over its apostolic centre for “emergency care”, while the Jesuit order’s Oficina technical college in Lisbon said it was producing visors with 3-D technology for local medical centres.

“The manufacture of visors immediately aroused interest from other sectors, such as firefighters, municipality officials and security forces,” the school’s director, Miguel Sa Carneiro,” said.

“Former students whose companies have this equipment are making it available, and we’re creating a network of partnerships to will allow increased production.”