By Robin Gomes
Archbishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili launched the Covid-19 Pastoral Support Team during a meeting with Prime Minister José Maria Vasconcelos of Timor-Leste or East Timor.
The prime minister gave his full support for the Church’s move, encouraging it to continue to provide spiritual, psychological and material assistance to the poor directly affected by the pandemic.
"The initiative was taken as a response to the calls of the Integrated Crisis Management Center Covid-19 for cooperation and support for those who are quarantined or in isolation," Archbishop Da Silva told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting.
The formation of the team came following the government’s extension of the emergency from April 28 to May 27. However, the government has eased some restrictions such as reopening the border to Timorese nationals and allowing the use of public transport but with health protection measures.
Archbishop Da Silva said the pastoral team of priests and members of religious orders will work with Caritas in providing spiritual and material aid for poor families subjected to quarantines and lockdowns.
The team will also redirect funds donated by the Korean Church for a new nunciature to help in the fight against the pandemic.
Support for government measures
The Salesian archbishop said that the Church was committed to supporting the government following a spike in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases since the first case was detected on March 21.
The tiny nation of 1.3 million people has 24 confirmed infections, with no deaths, while two people have recovered.
Archbishop Da Silva urged citizens in the predominantly Catholic country, especially in Dili Archdiocese, to help the government in dealing with Covid-19.
"If everyone has the awareness and discipline to maintain their health, we will be able to break the chain of the spread of this deadly virus," he said.
The archbishop also called on the government to keep its promise to provide US$100 in aid to every family affected by Covid-19. "It will help ease the burden on families staying at home during the pandemic," he said.
President Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo said extending the state of emergency was not an easy decision but was necessary to save lives.
"I know it greatly affects families, especially those who have to make a living from their own businesses and those at risk of losing their jobs," he said on April 28.
The task force
Father Angelo Salsinha, who heads the pastoral support team, said it consists of dozens of priests and nuns who specialized in psychology and medicine.
"There are many sisters at medical clinics who will facilitate the provision of spiritual assistance as well," Father Salsinha told UCA News.
Dili Archdiocese also has six tons of rice, cooking oil and milk to be distributed to poor families in more than 30 parishes.
In addition, help will be extended to disadvantaged people such as widows on the outskirts of Dili and vegetable and fruit traders who usually sell their produce by walking dozens of kilometres to and from the capital. The rest will be distributed to five parishes near the border with Indonesia and other parishes that are experiencing difficulties.
Almost all active cases of Covid-19 in the country were found among Timorese students who had entered via the land border and who were quarantined in Dili. (Source – UCANEWS)