Father Livio Fanzaga, the director of the Catholic radio station Radio Maria, attributed the spread of the virus to Satan and called the epidemic “a warning from the heavens” against materialism.
Around Milan, the faithful could visit churches only for private prayer, and could not sit together in large congregations.
Francesco Ferraro, a sacristan of the Santa Maria Annunciata in Chiesa Rossa church in Milan, said older people did not understand that they could not go to Mass, since even during World War II “they used to gather even more and pray together.” Giovanna Mazzola, 72, said she had watched three separate Masses on television but came to the church anyway, and was saddened to see people “sitting far away from one another.”
Milan’s landmark Duomo cathedral opened a small, and mostly empty, section to the faithful.
“I went to say a little prayer,” Michele Lorenzi, 80, said after lighting a candle for his late parents and sick sisters. Only about 10 people were inside with him, and guards in masks patrolled the central naves and empty pews. “It’s very very sad.”
Pope Francis, in Rome, had sought to avoid such disruptions.
“I want to again express my closeness to those suffering from the coronavirus and the health care workers who are treating them,” Francis said Wednesday after shaking hands with prelates and the faithful in the front rows of a crowd in which few people wore masks.
When Francis, who lost part of a lung from a respiratory illness in his youth, came down with a cold last week some media outlets drew a connection to the virus. The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said on Sunday, “There is no evidence to diagnose the pope with anything other than the cold.”