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Italy in lock down; country open to conversations on faith 'like never before', claims Christian leader

by Ruth Sax

As Italy deals with a total lockdown, gospel opportunities are flourishing, says Italian Evangelical Alliance. 

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ordered people to stay home and seek permission for essential travel on Monday, saying the measures were designed to protect the most vulnerable. "There is no more time," he said in a TV address.

Italy's coronavirus death toll jumped from 366 to 463 on Monday and it is the worst-hit country after China.

Vice chairman of the Italian Evangelical Alliance, Leonardo De Chirico lives in Rome, which is a 'red zone' and in total lockdown. He told Premier the streets are quiet: "Very few people are around in the city at the moment, people are restricted from going out and from taking an unnecessary walks, trips or journeys."

Chirico explained that people have to give a reason to authorities the reason they are outside, "it has been difficult to process for many people around us, but people are beginning to appreciate the seriousness of the situation and the need to change habits and quickly too."

The Diocese of Rome has cancelled the celebration of all Catholic Masses for nearly a month and announced a day of fasting and prayer in response to the Coronavirus.

All Catholics in Rome have been encouraged to observe a day of fasting and prayer for the victims of the coronavirus with a special televised Mass on Wednesday.

60 million people have been told to stay at home until the 3rd of April - except for work and emergencies - but Chirico wants to remind Christians to have more faith than fear, he told Premier's News Hour programme: "Often our challenges bring with them opportunities. We've never experienced a time of openness towards spiritual conversations as we have in the past few days. 

"People are struggling to handle fear, anxiety and despair and that, of course, is a pain but it brings opportunities for the Gospel to be shared, and also to be lived out. Although we cannot go around to homes, that is not allowed, but we can phone, we can use technology, we can try to stay close to people as much as we can.

"We respect the government's decision and this is giving opportunities for the Christian community to be a community that is close to people - as well as indicating the need for us to be hopeful, not in our own strength, but in God and God alone."

Leonardo De Chirico said: "We need to take advantage of this sad time, to transform it into a time of grace by looking at things from another perspective, the need for our lives not to be dependent on our on our own safety zones, but on God and His word and His good news in Jesus Christ."

All Catholics in Rome have been encouraged to observe a day of fasting and prayer for the victims of the coronavirus with a special televised Mass on Wednesday.

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