05/10/2021, 13.29
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Card Gracias: Indian Church to increase aid for COVID-19 victims

by Card. Oswald Gracias *

The Archbishop of Bombay takes stock of the mobilisation with Caritas India. About a thousand Catholic hospitals are “at the forefront”. The Church is “coordinating financial aid to buy more ventilators” and “our schools will operate as isolation and quarantine centres; our institutions as vaccination centres”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – In India a thousand Catholic hospitals with 60,000 beds are available for COVID-19 patients, this according to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), in a statement sent to AsiaNews.

More than 50,000 nuns normally work at these facilities, a thousand of them as medical doctors. Faced with the catastrophe, India’s Catholic Church is doing its utmost to help all those suffering, irrespective of caste or creed.

This enhanced involvement is offered to everyone in India, without discrimination, while the pandemic still shows no signs of slowing down. Yesterday another 366,161 new coronavirus cases were reported with another 3,754 deaths for a total death toll of 246,116.

In light of the situation, the cardinal notes that Catholic dioceses are allowing Catholic schools and other facilities to be used as vaccination centres and to accommodate patients who need isolation. Lastly, he thanks the Pope and other Catholic Churches around the world for their show of solidarity, and urges everyone to pray.

Last night I had a meeting with Caritas India. We are preparing ourselves to help people with relief, nationally, in different ways. As always, we want to help people of all faiths, without discrimination of caste or religion.

This week I shall have meetings and sessions online with our Catholic hospitals to define and coordinate some concrete steps to increase our assistance to people.

We have already been helping and the Church will continue to be at the forefront, offering our services through our health facilities. The Church in India has a thousand hospitals with 60,000 beds across providing healthcare to everyone, especially people on the margins of society.

We are also coordinating financial aid to buy more ventilators and increase our medical equipment to save the lives of our people, which will be available for people of all faiths and creeds.

Focusing on rural areas, Christian health institutions have always been at the forefront, fighting various disease like tuberculosis, leprosy, AIDS and helping people with disabilities. More than 50,000 women religious, including a thousand doctors, work in these hospitals and all this is made available to save our people.

The Church will continue to be at the forefront, offering our services. We will open all our facilities to the needs of the people; our schools will operate as isolation and quarantine centres; our institutions as vaccination centres; and our religious personnel all over the country will begin our campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Our personnel will also continue to coordinate with the government to educate people on the urgency of adopting protective measures such as social distancing, masks, etc.

The universal Church is in solidarity with India. The Holy Father and bishops in the United States, Europe and Asia have written to me, expressing their solidarity and prayerful support at this time of the second, devastating wave of coronavirus in India.

The Church in India has lost two bishops, priests and religious sisters to COVID-19. Archbishop Emeritus Anandarayar of Pondicherry-Cuddalore was a colleague, classmate and collaborator. Bishop Basil of Jhabua was a young bishop. I often receive phone calls from entire convents infected with the virus.

We must remember that our lives are of service; yet it is painful to see lives snuffed out so quickly. The virus has claimed many people we know, and has left many children orphaned who have lost both parents.

There is so much suffering and we turn to pray. On 7 May we had a national day of prayer and we joined the Holy Father in his Rosary Marathon. We shall get out of this.

* Cardinal Archbishop of Mumbai

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)

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