By Robin Gomes
“Our deep sympathies to people and countries affected by this lethal virus. This is the time of universal brotherhood of humanity,” wrote Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo, the President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), in a statement on Tuesday.
“Let us remember every brother and sister affected in our prayers every day,” he said, reiterating the appeal of Pope Francis for “prayer support”.
The virus outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has infected more than 80,000 people worldwide, with China reporting 2,663 deaths among 77,658 cases, mostly in Hubei province. More than 40 countries outside China have been affected and nearly 500 million people are either in hard-core shutdown conditions or in the process of being restricted to their homes.
Cardinal Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon, pointed to the adverse impact of the virus on the economy of many countries, including the powerful ones. In a bid to contain the contagion, many countries are imposing travel restrictions and bans, which are hitting the tourism sector.
Fellowship and prayer
According to the cardinal, “disasters are a time for humanity’s fellowship” when maps and borders collapse at the time of war, disaster or viral outbreak. “Commendable fellowship,” he said, “ is manifested now across continents by good people.”
Reminding all that it is the “Lord of Life who protects people from all evil”, he urged the “army of prayer warriors” to rise in robust defiance against this sickness with their prayers, Masses and adoration.
Cardinal Bo urged people to make of emergencies, such as the current outbreak, an occasion for introspection on the ultimate meaning and destination of human life and “the arrogance and audacity of human institutions”.
An invisible virus, he said, can bring ‘superpowers’ and ‘economic powerhouses’ to their knees.
Sacredness of human life
These are also moments of acknowledging, in humility, our human fragility and mortal nature, the cardinal said, stressing, “the only superpower over our lives is God.” The sacredness of human life, he lamented, is superseded by economic interests marked by economic and environmental injustice.
A world devoid of the transcendental value of human life, Cardinal Bo said, tend to commodify everything that is sacred and reduces human life into a cog in the market economy.
Disasters and virus pandemics periodically remind humanity that we all have only one planet, the FABC president said, warning, “We either stand together or fall together.”