Bishops, priests, and Sisters from as many as 50 countries around the globe have written to a leading Catholic charity offering prayers in response to the pandemic and warning of catastrophe as it spreads to some of the world’s poorest countries.
From Brazil in Latin America to the Philippines in south-east Asia, spanning Africa, the Middle East, all across Eastern Europe, including Ukraine and beyond, messages of prayer and solidarity have poured in from project partners of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) for the charity and its benefactors.
Writing by email, many of the clergy highlight fears that COVID-19 is on course to create havoc in developing countries, affecting the poorest and most vulnerable people, many at direct risk of catching the disease, and struggling to get enough to eat as a result of the necessary lockdown measures.
The messages come after ACN announced a €5 (£4.35) million aid package for priests and Sisters, many of them on the frontline of care for coronavirus victims and their families.
In Kossogha, Burkina Faso, staff at SS Peter and Paul Seminary reported that they and the students were in quarantine after spiritual director Father Justin Savadogo, 67, died of COVID-19 on Thursday (16th April).
Stuck in Uganda, with all flights to Italy canceled, missionary of St Francis de Sales Father Thomas Varghesev wrote: “When we see that thousands of people fall in Europe and the US where medical systems are so far advanced, we thought: what will be the situation if corona embraces the poorest countries in the world, where there may not be hardly 100 functioning ventilators in the whole country? It will be disastrous.”
From Burma (Myanmar), a priest who asked to remain anonymous wrote to the charity: “We, too, are alarmed by this worldwide crisis and, together as one human community, we too are praying for the wellbeing of the entire community. We fondly remember your organization [ACN] too.”
Writing from Aleppo, Syria, Armenian Catholic Father Antoine Tahhan told ACN that, after nine years of conflict, people were very vulnerable to the virus, with the economy in tatters and many hospitals and other health centres closed or only partially functioning.
Describing extensive lockdown measures in place in Aleppo, including the closure of churches, Father Tahhan wrote: “The healthcare system is in a fragile state and this is the root of the concerns that the virus could spread among the population.”
Describing the situation in a remote village in Andhra Pradesh, south-east India, a priest called Father Anthony wrote: “I request you to pray for us. Positive cases of corona are increasing daily. Near to my parish, there are 19 positive cases so we are afraid of it.”
ACN set up a ‘bell of prayer’ initiative, appealing to Sisters around the world to pray during this pandemic and, within 48 hours, 35 congregations from 17 countries – including Cameroon, Bangladesh, Peru, and Bulgaria – responded and took up the challenge.
From the discalced Carmelites in Jalingo, Nigeria came the message: “Our community is ever so grateful to ACN and all your benefactors for all you have done for us over the years.
“We always remember you in our prayers – may [the Lord] be pleased to hear all your prayers as we cry out to him in this great time of need.”