Chaplains stay the course at Madrid hospital, amid coronavirus outbreak

Madrid, Spain, Mar 20, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Spain is among the countries hardest hit by the global coronavirus pandemic; as of Thursday afternoon, more than 18,000 Spaniards have contracted the disease, and more than 800 have died.

Fr. Gaetan Kabasha, a native of Rwanda and a chaplain at Madrid’s San Carlos Hospital Clinic, describes his recent days there as very intense.

“This last week was frenetic. Everything has radically changed. The medical staff knows what to do and they have their protocols. The relatives, as normal, are worried,” the priest told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

Kabasha and four other chaplains serve the hospital together.

“Between us chaplains we’ve split up the work. Just the younger ones in good health can attend to the patients with coronavirus,” he explained.

“We chaplains have decided to stay at the hospital and the Church is supporting us in this. It’s a very important value to relieve those who are in the hospital, the sick, family members, and medical personnel because they’re under constant stress. It helps them to see that you’re still there, and for the sick who have always been part of the Church, it is comforting to them to have a priest close by during their illness, and if it’s the case, at the end of their lives.”

“I came upon some relatives of a patient, who were crying. They stopped me and told me they were surprised; that they didn’t know there was a priest in the hospital and asked me to go give the anointing of the sick to their family member,” Kabasha related.

To approach those who are infected, the chaplains are garbed in protective clothing.

 “We go in with a gown, mask, double gloves, eye protection and booties. Just like the doctors.”

Kabasha said that the presence of the priest in the hospital is always important but at a critical time like this, even more so.

“People are on edge, the relatives, the sick, the hospital staff…but when they see a chaplain walking through the hospital, their tenseness subsides a bit. They see that they’re not alone, that despite the situation we haven’t left.”


A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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