By Robin Gomes
The coronavirus emergency “is a propitious time to understand the value of fraternity and of our bonds with each other in an indissoluble way,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Human Integral Development. “We would recommend communities in great difficulties not to live everything as a deprivation,” he said in a message addressing the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dicastery said it was joining Pope Francis in reiterating the closeness of the Church to all suffering from the contagion, the victims, their families and all healthcare workers, who are in the front line in caring for those affected and bringing them relief.
Coronavirus, officially known as Covid-19, has killed more than 4,300 people worldwide and reportedly infected over 119,600. China, where the outbreak was first reported in December, has been the hardest hit with over 80,700 confirmed cases and 3,158 deaths.
In Italy, which comes next with over 10,000 cases and 631 deaths, the government has ordered nationwide emergency measures, such as travel restrictions and a ban on public gatherings. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in all 20 Italian regions. In compliance with government orders to contain the spread of the virus, the Italian bishops have suspended all public celebration of Masses and liturgies until April 3.
“If we cannot come together to live our faith as before,” the Ghanian cardinal noted, “God offers us the opportunity to enrich ourselves, to discover new paradigms, and find the personal relationship with Him ".
Solidarity and social justice
Cardinal Turkson recalled that Pope Francis and several heads of state have shown their solidarity with countries that are hardest hit, by donating medical products and financial aid.
He hoped that everyone can continue this trend since many nations, especially those with weak healthcare systems, find themselves overwhelmed by the effects of the virus.
In the present crisis, the Vatican official urged those with political and economic powers not to neglect social justice and support the economy and research.
The Dicastery encouraged national and international healthcare systems and organizations, both lay and Catholic, to continue helping people and making every effort “to find a solution to the new epidemic, according to indications by the WHO [World Health Organization] and national and local political authorities”.
Cardinal Turkson also hoped that this moment of great need be a propitious time to strengthen solidarity, closeness and friendship among states and peoples.
“This is the time to promote international solidarity in sharing tools and resources,” Cardinal Turkson said, assuring the Holy See’s continuing support for healthcare professionals and facilities in various parts of the world, especially in very remote areas in great difficulty, trusting in the active solidarity of all.