Priests have ‘grave responsibility’ to bring sacraments to the sick, Argentine bishops say

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 25, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- As Argentina remains under a government-ordered lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the bishops of Buenos Aires have called on priests to “generously” offer their ministry to the sick.

According to ACI Prensa, CNA’s sister news agency, across the country, Argentines have been told not to leave their homes except to buy basic necessities. The lockdown will remain in place at least until the end of the month. As of Tuesday, there were more than 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with at least five deaths. 

The bishops of the capital city, led by Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, issued a letter March 23, titled "Time to bring the consolation of the sacraments." Quoting from the homily given by Pope Francis on March 10, the bishops ask for prayers for priests “that they have the courage to go out to the sick, bringing the strength of the Word of God and the Eucharist and accompanying the healthcare workers and volunteers in this work they are doing.” 

“These words come to us with all that they require and we want to step up to this present hour, generously offering the gift of ministry that we have received,” the bishops said.

The letter recalled similar trials which the country has faced in the past, including a “devastating epidemic” of yellow fever in 1871, during which, the bishops said, there was “an offering of many lives by the bold courage of many doctors, nurses, volunteers and religious.”

They capital’s bishops also offered the life of Saint José Brochero as an example for clergy during the current crisis. Brochero was a priest who cared for the sick during the cholera epidemic that decimated the population of the city of Córdoba in 1868.

“Encouraged by this cloud of witnesses that have gone before us in charity to society, we expect that priests will help us reflect on which is the best way to fulfill our ministry, to take on the present hour in face of the pandemic that has been unleashed in the world and that has begun to show signs of its presence in the population,” the bishops said.

"Let us think about what our contribution will be to the movement of solidarity that has unfolded these days,” the letter said, highlighting the “grave responsibility” of the Church’s ministers “to bring the consolation of the sacraments to those who request them.”

Although the lockdown restricts all but essential travel, the Argentine government has exempted priests and religious ministers from the Preventive and Mandatory Social Isolation order that went into effect last Friday.

The exception was made after a March 20 meeting between the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, and the Executive Committee of the Argentine Conference of Bishops. Priests are now included in a wide-ranging list of workers in essential public and private services. 

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