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April 29, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — During an interview with LifeSite co-founder John-Henry Westen yesterday, Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan said the “persecution” of the church being carried out by governments across the world during the COVID-19 outbreak is causing “a kind of underground Church” to emerge and that this may be a vehicle for God to purify the Church.

“It could be that we are going through a time of the catacombs — a kind of underground Church,” he said. “But we needn’t be fearful. We have to be courageous, because the Church has a lot of … experience being a catacomb Church, an underground Church. And in those times of catacombs, God gave plenty of spiritual fruits for the renewal of the Church.”

Schneider pointed to the heavy-handed restrictions placed on churches in the United Kingdom and elsewhere as proof that governments are using the coronavirus as a “pretext” to “implicitly persecute” the Catholic Church.

England’s lockdown laws are “completely against every reasonableness of proportionality,” he remarked. They are “a kind of discrimination and persecution of the Church.”

His Excellency continued: “The bishops and the bishops’ conferences — and even the Holy See — should insist on the governments to give to the churches at least the same rights … as they give to the stores where people can buy food.” “If the government denies the Church the same rights as they give to a store, then this is discrimination of the religion.”

Schneider wondered if this particular time in history is “an intervention to purify the Church through a persecution” due to the widespread nature of “heresies in doctrine and morals [and] in the liturgy” in the Church. 

Schneider wondered if “a time of catacombs would be good for the Church” in that it could be “a very strong intervention by divine providence to awaken the Church.”

His Excellency added that Catholics need to pray so God may “illuminate” Pope Francis so he will “make acts of reparation together with the cardinals” for the “outrages against our Lord, in the Eucharist … committed inside the church” and for sins like abortion that are “committed outside the church.”

“It is the Lord who will determine the time of the catacombs, the time of persecution, not the government’s,” he concluded.

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