By Robin Gomes
Caritas Singapore, the social and development arm of the Catholic Church in the city-state, is playing a leading role in responding to the emergency caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Social service is part of Gospel
Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye of Singapore on Sunday called on the faithful to help the community and people in difficulty, especially those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite a drop in funding, he said, “Catholics must support" those who work "for the most affected people, the unemployed, those suffering from depression or in financial difficulty.”
“The social service of the Church the humanitarian work of the Church is part and parcel of the Gospel,” said the archbishop in an appeal on behalf of Caritas, during Mass streamed live on Sunday.
One of the consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic is the drop in private donations and offerings, which are crucial to charities of all faiths in the city-state, one of the most modern and developed countries in Asia.
Fall in funding
With public Masses suspended since February 15, the Catholic Church has seen offerings and donations drop. The Society of St Vincent de Paul charity, which saw donations fall by 90 per cent, has launched an online fundraiser targeting Singapore’s 400,000 Catholics.
With Covid-19 other faith communities such as Methodist and Baptist Churches as well as Hindu and Taoist temples are also experiencing a shortage in funds to support their charities.
Caritas that has 28 units in Singapore said they raised US$5,000 to help especially the victims of the COVID-19’s economic fallout. More than 2,000 families in need receive aid.
Caritas Singapore also has a wing dealing with the archdiocese’s overseas humanitarian aid called “Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore”, or CHARIS.
Appeal for generosity
According to Archbishop Goh, fundraising and charitable work are essential "to provide food and medicine to those suffering from this pandemic.” Hence, “Those who can, should help people in difficulty.”
He urged those who “have some extra money to be generous and visit the Archdiocese's website to make a donation, each according to their possibilities.”
Whatever be the donation, the archbishop urged, "give with a happy heart, a joyful heart" because "God loves a cheerful giver."
Singapore eases shutdown
Barbers and hairdressers, food manufacturers and outlets as well as laundry shops were among selected businesses that were allowed to reopen on Tuesday with strict health measures after five weeks of shutdown.
Starting on May 19, Singapore will also allow small groups of students to return to schools, prioritising parts of graduating classes taking national exams this year.
The city state’s near-total lockdown will run until June 1, after which there will be a gradual lifting of social distancing measures, authorities said.
Singapore has recorded 24,671 infections, the highest in Asia after China, India and Pakistan. But it has a low fatality rate of 21 deaths. About 90% of the cases are linked to foreign workers' dorms, which have all remained locked down as testing continues.