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A homeless man receives food from residents of the Chapeu Mangueira slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil A homeless man receives food from residents of the Chapeu Mangueira slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 

Covid-19: Catholic leaders in Latin America pledge to protect the vulnerable

Catholic political and civil society leaders across Latin America release a ‘Manifesto’ in which they spell out the need to protect society’s most fragile members, who have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

By Linda Bordoni

The commitment to face current difficulties and to act according to a common Christian perspective is the premise at the roots of a declaration and appeal issued by Catholic leaders of Latin America.

The just-released “Manifesto of Latin Americans with Political Responsibilities” spells out the need to protect the most fragile and vulnerable people in society, and to promote greater cooperation on an international basis.

Signed by some 170 men and women with socio-political responsibility and power, the list of names includes three former heads of state, a former secretary of the Organization of American States, a former director of the International Monetary Fund, as well as current and former MPs.

The initiative is promoted by the Academy of Catholic Leaders, established in Chile and currently present in various Latin American nations.

The Academy’s Board of Directors includes renown theologians, the President of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious, and the Vice- President emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The Manifesto

The Manifesto states that it stems from “the pain for those who suffer and will suffer most from this pandemic”: the poor, those who are alone and abandoned, the most fragile and the most vulnerable, those who will be hit hardest by the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Just think of the dramatic impact it will have on a multitude of Latin American brothers and sisters who survive only thanks to undeclared work, on those who live on the streets, on the many abandoned elderly people,” the statement reads.

It is the poor, it continues, who have to leave their homes to earn their daily bread and who often are unable to observe the rules of isolation and quarantine.

Reality demands that the choices we make mirror the choice made by Jesus Christ, the signatories say: “Therefore all actions and commitments to tackle the crisis must be made from the point of view of their impact on the most vulnerable.”

Solidarity, the common good, spiritual accompaniment

In concrete terms, the Manifesto continues, solidarity must be organized between different territorial areas and between different countries because the pandemic does not affect the entire national territory with equal force.

The document calls for the involvement of the media that must work for the common good, avoiding sensationalism and contributing to a climate that is “risk-conscious but serene and self-confident".

It highlights the fact that churches must be involved, as psychological and spiritual accompaniment is fundamental, especially for “those experiencing traumatic or stressful situations.”

The Catholic leaders go on to underscore how the economy is called to demonstrate its ability to face the unprecedented challenge, saying that “Neither ideologies nor traditional orthodoxies can take precedence over reality.”

Unprecedented political and economic challenges

Noting that, “It takes creativity to resist and then overcome the crisis,” the Manifesto calls on the political leaders of the different nations of Latin America to seek coordinated and concerted action, assuming the leadership and the responsibility to neglect no one.

“The churches must be bearers and, to their extent, executors of these measures".

The Manifesto wraps up saying it is a fundamental time in which to strengthen integration mechanisms (Pacific Alliance, Mercosur, Central American Integration System) and cooperation between countries with the largest populations of the continent (Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile).

Therefore, it says, the cooperation of the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Latin American Development Bank is very important; equally important is the postponement – and restructuring - of foreign debt thanks to the solidarity of creditors.

“Surely we are in a very serious situation on our planet,” the 170 signatories of the Manifesto conclude, “probably the greatest challenge that we, as a generation, will live in our history."

16 April 2020, 13:50