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Columns Justice Perspective

Solidarity in a Time of Pandemic

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Every crisis not only tests the faith and resolve of those who experience it, but it also creates opportunities for both compassion and reflection. This pandemic is no different. In the midst of so many concerns about business, the economy, eating out, and “normal” life, we are called to acknowledge that, as in so many other situations, Covid-19 will disproportionately affect the poor.

One especially hard-hit group will be low-paid and low-benefit workers who cannot work from home, and typically had the lowest levels of protection like paid sick leave, and they are frequently uninsured or underinsured for medical care.

And while we have (rightly) closed schools and instituted quarantines, not every kid has the ability to take advantage of “virtual learning,” and so many poor children rely on school breakfasts and lunches as a necessary part of their nutrition.

The elderly, too, are among the most vulnerable not only because of their tenuous health situations, but also because they are among our nation’s poorest. And in many cases they rely on home health aides or others for so much of their food and hygiene needs.

In a joint statement between Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Health USA, these organizations offered a pledge for their continuing ministry “to promote and defend human dignity for all in our care while advancing the common good; to attend to the whole person, recognizing that this pandemic affects not only our bodies, but also our minds, emotions, and spirits; to advocate and serve those who are vulnerable or living on the margins of society; and to work to ensure that in this moment of darkness nobody is forgotten.”

And the situation around the world is even worse in many cases. There are nearly 50 countries who fall under the UN’s Least-Developed Country (LDC) status, home to nearly 900 million people worldwide. Many of these countries lack the economic resources and medical infrastructure to be able to respond to the medical needs of their people during this pandemic.

Catholic Relief Services has been on the front lines in these countries with teams across the world continuing to expand their programming to prevent the spread and reduce the risk of COVID-19 in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

CRS is adapting much of its programming to incorporate activities that help to prevent the spread of the virus. This includes targeted information campaigns and the provision of hygiene materials for communities, as well as investment in strengthening the capacity of local partners to respond.

During this time of crisis, we are called to embrace and act on the principle of Solidarity in Catholic Social Teaching: We are one human family, we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Whether around the block or around the world. It will be important for us to support the eff orts of Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services as they help our brothers and sisters to cope with this pandemic.

And let us embrace the insights of this excerpt from an anonymous “Prayer in Times of Pandemic”

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love.

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

Amen.

Deacon Don Weigel is the diocesan director of Catholic Relief Services and can be reached at deacondon@gmail.com

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