Cardinal Peter Turkson sent a message Wednesday encouraging Catholics to see the sacrifices required to slow the spread of coronavirus as a chance to deepen their relationships with God and their neighbors.

"Prayer is our strength, prayer is our resource. Here then is the favorable moment to rediscover the fatherhood of God and our being children," Turkson said in the March 11 message.

He encouraged "the most tested communities" to not experience "everything as a privation."

For those who cannot gather for the celebration of Mass, he said, "we are called to an even more deeply rooted journey on what sustains the spiritual life: prayer, fasting, and charity."

"If we cannot meet in our assemblies to live our faith together, as we usually do, God offers us the opportunity to enrich ourselves, to discover new paradigms, and to find personal relationships with Him again," he said.

The prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Turkson addressed his letter to health workers, chaplains, the sick and their families, volunteers, civil authorities, bishops in charge of pastoral work in healthcare, the heads of bishops' conferences, and all people of good will.

His message was sent as countries around the world increase measures to fight the spread of coronavirus.

In Italy, public Masses were canceled starting March 8. Most dioceses in Japan have also suspended public Masses.

Worldwide, there are 109,577 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 3,809 deaths.

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The new strain of coronavirus causes a respiratory disease, COVID-19, and has a fatality rate of roughly 3%. The vast majority of cases and deaths have been in China.

In his message, the cardinal reminded Catholics of Christ's words in Matthew's Gospel: "when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

He also recalled the many times Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to keep the Bible nearby and to pray with scripture.

"The effort made to contain the spread of Coronavirus is accompanied by the commitment of each individual faithful for the greater good: the reconquest of life, the defeat of fear, the triumph of hope," he said.

The cardinal noted the importance of solidarity during this time and asked people to think of their "neighbor, office colleague, school friend, but above all the doctors and nurses who risk contamination and infection to save the infected."

Turkson asked political and economic authorities to not neglect social justice amid the new economic crisis caused by the virus and to continue to look for ways to support health workers all over the world, especially in the places in most difficulty.

"So let us pray to God the Father to increase our faith, help the sick in healing and support health workers in their mission," the cardinal said.

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"We ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the efforts of scientists, health workers and governments, and we entrust all the populations affected by the contagion to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of humanity."