Easter has been celebrated for millennia, but never like this year.
The coronavirus lockdown has moved Southern Nevada Holy Week services from cathedrals to YouTube as the faithful abide by social distancing.
“I issued a discontinuance order for all Masses in the diocese and public celebrations,” Bishop George Thomas told State of Nevada. “It’s got to be one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.”
Thomas, who heads the 750,000-member Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas, halted services on March 16, shortly after Gov. Steve Sisolak issued his coronavirus emergency order.
Even though some churches in the country have kept their doors open, Thomas said he is relying on guidance from the CDC and the Southern Nevada Health District.
“We need both faith and reason working together,” he said.
Thomas said that despite the loss and uncertainty, this moment has revealed hidden blessings.
“Everyone would have to point to things that have happened in the midst of this sadness, like families banding closer together, “ he said, “There seems to be at least temporarily a bit more political cooperation on the national scene.
“I, in my own life, am thanking God for blessings that I’ve taken for granted — food in the stores and potable water.”
The bishop believes when the outbreak has abated everyone will see life with more gratitude.
He also believes people have seen the fragility of life and are asking bigger questions, now that they have more time on their hands.
“I do think that people are asking harder questions. When we’ve got more time on our hands, I think they’ve become more contemplative. I think are asking deeper questions about ‘where am I going?’ ‘What are we going to do differently when we get through this?’” he said.
As with all crises, the outbreak has people contemplating whether the world is in the End of Days. Bishop Thomas says perhaps it is a sign of the end of the world - in the biblical sense - but, “Frankly, I don’t lose sleep over that. Pope John the 23rd is one of my favorite saints… he said, ‘my bags are always packed.’ I think it’s a great way to live and not to worry about it.”
Bishop Thomas's message for his parishioners this Easter Sunday will be one of hope and trust in God even during the darkest hours.
George Thomas, bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas
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