‘God does not abandon us’: US bishops urge prayer, state action over coronavirus

Washington D.C., Mar 13, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Catholic bishops in the United States offered prayers and encouragement as Congress considers a relief package for the Coronavirus.

Conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles released a statement Friday invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe and encouraging Catholics to pray.

“God does not abandon us,” Gomez said. “He goes with us even now in this time of trial and testing. In this moment, it is important for us to anchor our hearts in the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Now is the time to intensify our prayers and sacrifices for the love of God and the love of our neighbor. Let us draw closer to one another in our love for him, and rediscover the things that truly matter in our lives.”

“United with our Holy Father Pope Francis, let us pray in solidarity for our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are sick. Let us pray for those who have lost loved ones to this virus. May God console them and grant them peace,” Gomez said.

“We pray also for doctors, nurses, and caregivers, for public health officials and all civic leaders. May God grant them courage and prudence as they seek to respond to this emergency with compassion and in service to the common good.”

On Thursday, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, the chair of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee, encouraged lawmakers to provide aid to those hardest-hit by the coronavirus.

“We are grateful for the efforts by lawmakers during this difficult time and urge them to go forward in finding a path to bring greater relief to everyone suffering from coronavirus and its effects on society, especially those most in need,” said Coakley Thursday.

“May the Divine Physician be with all those affected by this illness and restore us quickly to health and peace,” he said.

The archbishop’s statement came as the spread of the coronavirus in the United States prompted widespread cancellations or postponements of public events and restrictions on public Masses in a growing number of dioceses.

The director-general of the World Health Organization on Wednesday called the virus a pandemic. In the U.S., there were more than 1,200 total cases and 36 deaths from the Coronavirus, according to Thursday numbers of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“We pray especially for those who are ill and for those who have died,” Archbishop Coakley said. “We also offer prayers for those affected by disruptions, such as quarantines and closures of workplaces and schools. Finally, we pray for health care workers, and express our gratitude for their service in combating this disease.”  

Several Catholic colleges and universities have cancelled in-person classes, and are making preparations to conduct courses online.

The Trump, Biden, and Sanders campaigns began cancelling public events and professional and collegiate sports organizations canceled sporting events indefinitely.

Congress is considering a stimulus package to respond to the Coronavirus, and the legislation is scheduled for a vote later on Friday.

Coakley noted that the bishops’ conference has previously supported some of the policies under consideration in the legislation, “such as increased food security measures, paid sick leave, adequate care for immigrants regardless of status, and greater assistance for low-income workers, the unemployed, and those experiencing homelessness or housing instability.”

The archbishop asked Congress to consider suspending work requirements for food stamp benefits given the instability of some industries affected by the virus.

Coakley also called for no immigration enforcement at locations such as hospitals and health clinics, and for a federal disaster declaration to free up additional federal funding of the pandemic response.

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