Pope’s Illness Causes Panic as COVID-19 Virus Sweeps the Planet

By Mark A. Kellner
Posted March 03, 2020

The pope is ill—and much of the world is worried.

Pope Francis, the first supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church to come from the Americas, cancelled public appearances for three days and has only just begun to return to pressing the flesh.

The 83-year-old pope has been in relatively good health in recent years, apart from a battle with sciatica, a painful nerve illness. But this latest absence from the public eye, which began after last week’s Wednesday’s public appearance that had the people-friendly pontiff greeting and touching many people in St. Peter’s Square, is the longest Francis had ever taken. As concerns mount over the growth of the novel coronavirus (Italy has more than two thousand confirmed cases and 52 deaths), the pope took precautions and recently tested negative for COVID-19.

The Vatican is not the only religious center affected by the virus. Saudi Arabia is suspending visas for Muslims wanting to make Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca. And around the globe, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other houses of worship have cancelled or modified worship schedules. Some groups have even altered various rituals to avoid direct contact among worshipers while others have promoted virtual or online services as an alternative.


Business, Tourism Hit

International business and tourism have also suffered as a result. Industrial production in some areas of China has ground to a halt as cities were placed on lockdown. Outbreaks in Italy and France have led to travel restrictions and the closure of attractions, such as Paris’ renowned museum, the Louvre. Major international conferences for the likes of Facebook, Shopify, and Cisco have all been cancelled over fears of potential contagion.

After losing a record 1,191 points last Thursday, its worst-ever one-day point drop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average roared back on March 2—gaining 1,293.96 points or 5.1 percent in just one day’s trading. According to CNBC, “The move on a percentage basis was the Dow’s biggest since March 2009. It was the largest-ever points gain for the 30-stock average.”

But that massive gain in one stock index doesn’t restore the losses for financial markets worldwide. As China’s economy, the world’s second largest, lies largely in a state of inertia, experts are apprehensive of what this means for the future. China’s lockdown is a disruption to supply that has led many businesses to move manufacturing to other nations. And these businesses may decide never to return even once the outbreak ends.

Beyond all this is the general “fear factor” associated with disease. As the virus continues to claim lives around the globe, even an Iranian government official, supermarket shelves have been emptied of bottled water, diapers, and toilet paper, among other essential supplies, in anticipation of a U.S. outbreak. Some voters have already rebuked leaders over their response to the outbreak.


Should Christians Fear?

If all the news reports about the coronavirus have caused you concern, know that God understands your fears—and has solutions for them. Jesus, in John 10:10, promised eternal life for those who follow Him: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Believers can cling to that declaration!

There are evidences that this new coronavirus is influencing not only our health but also our work, our recreation, our society, our very way of life. Certain leaders and organizations have tried to quell fears by purporting a “peace and safety” (1 Thessalonians 5:3) message, but the Bible warns against that kind of tactic. Instead, Scripture instructs us to “watch and be sober” (v. 6). It does not seek to lull us into a false sense of security, but instead tells us the facts, plain and simple.

Matthew 24 explicitly describes events that will shortly take place—among them “pestilences” (v. 7)—before the end of the world. Jesus did not divulge these ominous forebodings to produce fear in the hearts of His disciples. He told them so that they, as well as we, would be aware, informed, and prepared: “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” (v. 33).

The signs are apparent: The last days are upon us. Let us therefore take the Bible’s advice not to live in a frenzied panic, in a constant state of distress, but to be watchful, faithfully preparing our hearts. Take comfort in the fact that perpetually tied to these signs is the blessed hope of Jesus’ second coming (v. 37).

“You shall not be afraid … of the pestilence that walks in darkness,” counsels Psalm 91:5, 6, for God says of His followers, “With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation” (v. 16). While death may claim us here on earth, our eternal life is secured in God’s book of life. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” states Psalm 46:1, 2. “Therefore we will not fear.” Amidst our doubts and anxieties, God has already provided a path to peace in His Word.

The Bible offers plenty of verses to ease our fears, and Amazing Facts has a list of these online. A Bible study conducted by Pastor Doug Batchelor offers more assurance in uncertain times. There is, indeed, a “Divine Provision for Anxiety,” and it is the message of Jesus Christ!

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.
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