By Robin Gomes
As cases of Covid-19 continue to surge in the Philippines, two bishops have appealed to Catholics to put an end to discrimination against those who have been hit by the virus.
Stigma of leprosy and coronavirus
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Vicar of Manila Archdiocese, noted there is a growing “stigmatization” of people with COVID-19 similar to “leprosy at the time of Jesus”.
While leprosy can be seen externally and the new coronavirus is invisible to the human eye, “they both have the same effect on people,” he said.
“Both keep the infected away from other people. They are avoided by others, even by people close to them. There is a strong fear of infection in both cases, largely because of the unknown nature of the disease.”
Bishop Pabillo explained that the infection is often blamed on the supposed “carelessness” of those who acquired the disease. “In both [leprosy and COVID-19]”, he said, “there is a stigma attached.”
Prayers and support for those infected
The 65-year old bishop, who himself has recovered from Covid-19, recalled he was overwhelmed with messages of sympathy and promises of prayer when he tested positive.
“I truly believe that these prayers really helped. They did not only boost my spirit, but I am sure God heard them,” said the bishop.
Bishop Pabillo said that even while following health protocols, the Church community should not shy away from those infected but find creative ways to ensure the infected and the healed are not stigmatized.
He appealed to the public to instead send messages of solidarity and care to those who are infected, as well as provide them food and reading material.
Bishop Babillo underscored the spiritual help that the Christian faith provides, saying, “In all this, God loves us and our life is in His hands”.
Bishop Patricio Buzon of Bacolod also appealed for an end to Covid-related “hate,” which casts patients as “modern lepers.”
“All over the world,” he noted, “people are discriminated against because of colour, culture, belief, religion, and all kinds of differences.”
Prayers for healing of the country
The 70-year old bishop appealed for prayers for the country’s healing and for frontliners as cases of the new coronavirus disease continue to increase in the country.
The Philippine health ministry on Thursday reported 4,339 new coronavirus infections and 88 additional deaths. With this, the total number of confirmed cases in the country has risen to 178,022, while deaths have totaled 2,883. The Philippines has the most COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia and the region's second-highest death toll, after Indonesia.
Currently, the Catholic Church in the Philippine is in the midst of a month-long of collective prayer campaign for the end to the pandemic, the healing of the country and an end to the lockdown. With these intentions in mind, the Commissions on Seminaries and on Catechesis and Catholic Education of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged teachers, educators, seminary professors, seminarians and the Catholic faithful to pray ten "Hail Marys" every day at 12.00, from August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption, to September 15 the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The Philippine government on Wednesday relaxed a strict lockdown in the capital and nearby provinces, allowing more business establishments to resume operations. However, a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. was implemented in Metro Manila, as mayors sought stricter measures to contain the rise in coronavirus infections.