Irpinia Comes Together Over Coronavirus


Don Rino Morra says Mass at the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Morra De Sanctis. (Photo courtesy Don Rino Morra)

It’s a simple, yet profound, image that has been widely shared on social media outlets throughout Irpinia.

Don Rino Morra, pastor of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Morra De Sanctis (AV), is seen consecrating a host during a Mass on Friday, March 13, yet he is the only one in the church, his solitary figure immediately combining the poignancy and reverence of his very act of praying for his town, his country, and the world.

This past week, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte placed all of Italy in lock down as a way to contain COVID-19 (Coronavirus), meaning all civil and religious ceremonies, including Mass and funerals, have been suspended. To date, there are 17,660 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Italy, with 1,266 deaths, and 1,439 recoveries, leaving 14,955 active cases.

Conte’s measure, the largest lockdown in European history, affects approximately 60 million people and provides sanctions of up to three months in prison for those who violate the decree. Italians are allowed to leave their homes only for emergencies or for proven working needs, which must be pre-approved. All gyms, swimming pools, spas and wellness centers are closed. Those needing essential items are allowed to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, but are only allowed in one at a time.  For the faithful, the Archdiocese of Sant’Angelo dei Lombardi is offering a livestream of Mass said by their Archbishop Pasquale Cascio at the Sanctuary of the Beata Vergine del Buon Consiglio (Blessed Virgin of Good Help) in Frigento on Saturday and at the Sanctuary of St. Gerard Maiella in Materdomini on Sunday.  (Click here for the stream and posted videos)

“This blinded Italy… But we will win this battle.” — Ginevra D’Avino, Guardia Lombardi

A usually busy gas station near the interstate in Grottaminarda sits empty as a result of COVID-19 measures by the Italian Government. (Photo courtesy Giuseppe Fierro)

“Usually the streets are filled with people, but they’re empty — it’s all deserted here,” said Giuseppe Fierro of Grottaminarda. “Every place where you would see a lot of people, like a bar or a restaurant, is empty. People are only moving around for essential services, like going to the supermarket or the pharmacy. We’re all worried and we all hope this passes soon.”

Towns throughout the Province of Avellino have taken a wide variety of measures to ensure the safety of their citizens, including after-hours street sanitization, offering rides to grocery stores or pharmacies to elderly citizens who don’t have transportation, and even working with cell phone apps to keep citizens as fully informed as possible while COVID-19 continues its spread across Italy.

Small business owners are even doing what they could to be sure that their customers are taken care of.

Don Rino Morra cuts a solitary figure as he says Mass in Morra De Sanctis. (Photo courtesy Don Rino Morra)

“We are making sure that we’re following what our government is asking of us,” said Pina Cipriano of Market Cipriano in Guardia Lombardi (AV). “We are also offering a delivery service of groceries for all those who might need that locally.”

“As long as everyone respects the rules, we can get through this,” said Emanuela Sica, a writer and lawyer also from Guardia Lombardi. “If we stay closed like this for 15 days, it means we will live. If we don’t stay closed, everything will go up in smoke, including our health system.”

Sica’s daughter, Ginevra D’Avino, 14, explained what COVID-19 means for her schooling.

“Every morning, I go to my lessons via video conferencing,” she said. “I am studying as if I am continuing to go to school as usual, except now school will be closed until April 3 or even longer. My brother is also doing his school work online.”

“This blinded Italy,” she added. “But we will win this battle.”

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