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BOSTON -- Speaking at the opening of the televised St. Patrick's Day Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on March 17, Cardinal Seán O'Malley urged the Catholic faithful to pray the rosary during this time of "social distancing" to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
"Even if we cannot go to Mass, the rosary is always accessible to us," he said, referring to the archdiocese's suspension of public Masses, which went into effect March 14 and will remain until further notice.
Cardinal O'Malley said the rosary "has been the powerful prayer of the Catholic people" and that it "can be prayed by the simplest peasant or the most brilliant scientist."
He said the "social distancing" being practiced must not be motivated by fear but by a sense of solidarity and a desire to protect the vulnerable.
"Even as we embrace a methodology of physical isolation, we must reject any stance of alienation and individualism. Our motivation cannot be fear and self-preservation, but a sense of solidarity and connectedness. What is being asked of us is for the common good, to protect the most defenseless among us," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He compared the current "surrealistic atmosphere" to the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. He acknowledged the risks that the virus poses to elderly people, healthcare workers, the hospital system, and people's economic well-being.
"Just as after 9/11, we need to come together as a people with a profound sense of solidarity and community, realizing that so many people are suffering and fearful. We need to take care of each other, especially by reaching out to the elderly and the most vulnerable," he said.
Cardinal O'Malley said that although the clergy could not celebrate public Masses, they are offering Mass for the faithful every day.
"You are all spiritually united in these Masses," he told his virtual audience.
He said parish priests can still be contacted and that they are trying to use social media and Internet streaming to communicate.
Cardinal O'Malley expressed gratitude for priests, parish staffs, and Catholic school teachers and administrators working to serve their communities. He also reminded those watching the livestream that parishes will continue to rely on their members' financial support.
"Your parish communities depend on the offertory collections and will need your support going forward to carry on their crucial work," he said.
He said it was "encouraging" to see people still visiting churches to spend time in personal prayer and adoration.
"May this strange Lent that we're living help us to overcome physical distance by growing closer to God and by strengthening our sense of solidarity and communion with each other," Cardinal O'Malley said.