April 7, 2020 / 8:56 PM / 2 months ago

Priest takes 'drive-in' confessions as coronavirus spreads in Poland

WARSAW (Reuters) - A priest in Poland has started taking confession from the faithful in the parking lot of his church in the Polish capital Warsaw, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts one of the most hallowed rituals for Roman Catholics in the run up to Easter.

FILE PHOTO: A priest wearing a protective mask gives a "drive-in confession" in front of a church following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Warsaw Poland, April 6, 2020. Adam Stepien/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS/File Photo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND.

Sitting on a chair and wearing a surgical mask, Father Mateusz Kielarski listens to his parishioners and gives them absolution as they lean out of their car windows.

“From the safety of their car, they can take care of their soul while protecting their bodies from germs in this special time,” he told Reuters.

Thousands of Roman Catholics around the world will from Friday mark Easter, one of the most important holidays in the Christian calendar, amid strict limits on public life and religious worship as governments strive to curb the pandemic.

In Poland, one of Europe’s most devout nations, no more than two people can gather at the same time, and five people can attend mass.

Schools, restaurants and most shops are closed under strict measures by the government to stem the spread of the virus which has so far killed more than 100 people in the country.

Kielarski said that although seemingly public, confession from a car can be intimate.

“It can be experienced just as discretely, there is enough distance,” he said.

Churches in Poland often hold all-night sessions to accommodate the faithful who want to confess ahead of the Easter weekend.

This year’s “drive-in” solution, if successful, may be repeated in future, said Tadeusz Aleksandrowicz, a parish priest at the Temple of Divine Providence, one of Warsaw’s biggest churches, where Kielarski administers to worshippers.

For Szymon, a 23 year-old from Warsaw, the option is welcome.

“Maybe it looks a bit like a drive-in at McDonalds’, but that’s not what I was thinking about during confession,” he said.

“What’s important is the moment, not whether it takes place in a beautiful church, within nature, or in a car”.

Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, writing Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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