Is the recently-arrived coronavirus a punishment for humanity’s sins? Could it be God is using this growing and ever-more frightening epidemic as a means of getting our attention? Is it a coincidence that this disease seems to have originated in a country currently engaged in a fierce persecution of the Church?
These and other questions are taking on increased urgency as the epidemic spreads and claims ever more victims. It now seems as if the entire world is affected by it to one degree or another, and the threat posed by the coronavirus—also known as COVID-19, or as the Wuhan virus (the province in China where it apparently began)—has become the most important and compelling news story of 2020.
The coronavirus (named for the crown-like spikes found on its surface) has appeared in almost every continent and nation, and is severely affecting global finances, trade, and consumer confidence. China’s economy has virtually ground to a halt—and because of the inter-connectedness of the world financial system, many other nations are suffering as well. Hundreds of billions of dollars in sales and investments have been lost, factories and production lines are stilled, financial markets are struggling, medical supplies and drug components (many of which come from China) are increasingly difficult to obtain, and uncertainty over the availability of food and other basic necessities has become an ever-present worry for millions of people.
At the same time, throughout much of the world international travel has been severely restricted, persons coming from foreign nations have been placed in quarantine, schools have been closed, and public gatherings—including religious services—are being discouraged or forbidden. The disease is not yet anywhere nearly as deadly as other historical epidemics, such as the Black Death of the 14th century, which wiped out one-third of Europe’s population, or the Spanish flu of 1918 which ravaged the globe just over a century ago and killed well over forty million people (including two of the three Fatima visionaries). Nevertheless, some experts believe COVID-19 may soon become a pandemic, or a global epidemic, causing an untold number of infections and deaths, along with severe and previously-unthinkable disruptions to everyday life.