In hard-hit Brazil, help for priests aiding the most vulnerable caught up in the coronavirus pandemic
AS PART OF ITS CAMPAIGN to support priests and religious working with the weak and vulnerable in areas affected by COVID-19, Aid to the Church in Need has approved 11 new projects in Brazil, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. Combined, the projects they will benefit 169 priests, 31 seminarians, 141 women religious and 56 lay missionaries working in their local communities.
Among these are priests in the state of Ceará, in northeast Brazil, where the coronavirus is very much present in the city of Itapipoca, in the north of the state, around 80 miles from the state capital of Fortaleza. The Church there is working hard to maintain the a spirit of solidarity and provide support to the local Christians who depend upon the aid.
The region is experiencing a constant increase in the number coronavirus cases. As of June 5, there were 4,258 confirmed cases and 203 deaths. As of June 8, there were more than 690,000 cases, with 36,455 recorded deaths in all of Brazil. As part of the lockdown, local churches remain closed and Masses are live streamed on social media. With the aid of a handful of people, priests are continuing to celebrate Mass in empty churches.
Father Francisco Danízio Silva, finance director for the Diocese of Itapipoca, spoke of the importance of “maintaining contact with our people. Our people need us very much, they need our prayers, our companionship, our advice; however, as a result of the pandemic it is difficult to maintain physical contact. He also said that the local Church’s income “is greatly reduced, since the offerings of the faithful have fallen by around 60 percent. There are no collections as there are no public Masses—the resources we did have are now being exhausted.”
“At the present time it’s not possible to speak face-to-face with our people, who are very upset and anxious. We are helping them as best we can via social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube,” said Father Francisco explained. When they have to provide help in emergency situations, priests use protective face masks.
In some of parishes, priests have succeeded since the beginning of the pandemic in organzing a campaign to collect supplies and make up baskets of basic necessities for distribution among the most needy. “Recently we have made great efforts to raise funds, but it is now getting very difficult, since the people themselves have next to nothing,” said Father Francisco. Some parishes, as part of their family outreach program, distribute a daily dinner to the most needy. However, the money is running out for this campaign also.
Father Francisco is counting on the kindness of the ordinary people. He said: “During these times we are going through, the support of every individual is very important. With the little that we have we can still help many people. Our Church is poor and in need, but it is rich in the grace of God and in kind and generous people.”
Father Francisco thanked ACN donors directly. He said: “You have helped us greatly. Your support is directly linked to the help we can give to these brothers and sisters of ours who need so much of us, who need our compassion, our attention and our loving support. I pray to God, through the intercession of his most holy Mother Mary, that he may bless each and every one of you, and that your generosity will be the source of your salvation. May we never forget that helping our neighbour is one of the most effective ways of imitating our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. Our grateful thanks to all those who are helping us to evangelize through charity, throughout the world.”
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, ACN has been providing emergency financial support to hundreds of priests, religious and lay pastoral workers, so that they can continue helping the most needy during the crisis.