06/17/2020, 13.28
INDIA
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Diocesan centre requisitioned in Maharashtra to be used as anti-COVID-19 facility

by Nirmala Carvalho

The Diocese of Sindhudurg had already provided the authorities with some facilities. The decision was made without consulting the Catholic community. The centre is used for religious and social activities. Archbishop Barreto notes that the Church has already helped a thousand families affected by the pandemic. Without the Navsarni Centre, the diocese could close.

 

Sawantwadi (AsiaNews) – The Government of Maharashtra plans to turn the pastoral centre of the Diocese of Sindhudurg into an assistance structure to fight the pandemic.

Bishop Alwyn Barreto and local Catholics are challenging the decision, which was taken without the consent of the community. The diocese had already provided the authorities with other facilities to be used as quarantine centres.

The Navsarni (Renewal) Centre is a place of prayer and retreat as well as social, recreational, educational activities, run by both religious and lay people. It houses the diocesan offices, and is the home of five elderly priests, who now have to be moved elsewhere.

“We have distributed food to migrants stranded by the lockdown, as well as day labourers and the poor affected by the effects of the coronavirus,” said Bishop Barreto speaking about what the diocese has already done to fight the coronavirus.

“We have helped a thousand families,” he added. “Now the local government takes away our centre, without which the diocese could close.”

The Indian Church has spent a lot of money to cope with the pandemic crisis. In late March, Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore launched a relief plan for pandemic victims.

Christian hospitals take care of the sick, reserving entire wards for the infected. Some Catholic schools have been reconverted to host migrants, homeless people and refugees. In each parish, volunteers bring food and more to the poor.

India is one of the countries where the pandemic has spread the most. The number of cases has topped 354,000 with almost 187,000 hospitalised and 11,903 deaths.

With 5,537 deaths, Maharashtra is one of the states where COVID-19 has spread the most, along with Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and West Bengal.

The government imposed a lockdown across the country on 24 March. From 1 to 30 June the social confinement measures apply only to specific "containment areas".

During the lockdown, hundreds of millions of migrant workers tried to return to their home villages to save themselves from hunger and possible infection in large cities, some walking  thousands of kilometres.

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