Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux and chairman of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and chairman of USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup and chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Native American Affairs have released the following statement in solidarity with Native and Indigenous communities who are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
“As Native Communities continue to greatly suffer from the COVID-19 epidemic, the Church is developing ways to draw upon its deep roots in the person of Jesus to foster strength, charity, and support to those who are sick and those who have died. We cherish our close connections to Native Communities through our Catholic parishes, missions, and schools. We recall once more our profound desire to develop pathways to hope. We are heartbroken over reports that Native and Indigenous communities across this country are suffering at disproportionately high rates from the COVID-19 pandemic and concerned about the lack of sufficient resources to respond to the crisis. We are especially mindful of the Navajo Nation where people are being infected with the coronavirus at some of the highest rates in the country. We hold in prayer our brothers and sisters who are suffering and grieving in these communities, and we stand with them in calling for a robust response to the pandemic in their lands.
“The virus is exacerbating health disparities and long-standing social inequalities facing Native and Indigenous communities. Adequate funding for the Indian Health Service has long been a challenge, and there are reports of shortages of medical personnel and hospital beds. We are hopeful that the U.S. Senate’s recent unanimous confirmation of a director for the Indian Health Service affirms the recognition for the need of a strong advocate for the health needs of tribal communities. It is also good that additional resources were allocated in recent legislation, and it is essential that this funding reach its intended recipients as soon as possible. We implore lawmakers and government officials to protect the life and dignity of Native and Indigenous peoples by working with tribal leaders to ensure strong support and ample resources to protect their communities, including resources to adequately respond to large Native populations living in urban areas and resources devoted to addressing underlying medical conditions that increase the threat of COVID-19 for Native populations.”