Philippine bishops urge fight against ‘coronavirus stigma’

By Robin Gomes, 26 August 2020
Philippine Bishops Bishop Patricio Buzon of the Diocese of Bacolod (left) and Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Vicar of the Archdiocese of Manila. Image: Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)/Vatican News.


Two Philippine bishops are calling on the Catholic community not to stigmatise those hit by COVID-19 but to show them support and care with prayers and messages.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in the Philippines, two bishops have appealed to Catholics to put an end to discrimination against those who have been hit by the virus.

Stigma of leprosy and coronavirus

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Vicar of Manila Archdiocese, noted there is a growing “stigmatisation” of people with COVID-19 similar to “leprosy at the time of Jesus”.

While leprosy can be seen externally and the new coronavirus is invisible to the human eye, “they both have the same effect on people,” he said.

“Both keep the infected away from other people. They are avoided by others, even by people close to them. There is a strong fear of infection in both cases, largely because of the unknown nature of the disease.”

Bishop Pabillo explained that the infection is often blamed on the supposed “carelessness” of those who acquired the disease.  “In both [leprosy and COVID-19]”, he said, “there is a stigma attached.”

Prayers and support for those infected

The 65-year old bishop, who himself has recovered from COVID-19, recalled he was overwhelmed with messages of sympathy and promises of prayer when he tested positive.

“I truly believe that these prayers really helped. They did not only boost my spirit, but I am sure God heard them,” said the bishop.

Bishop Pabillo said that even while following health protocols, the Church community should not shy away from those infected but find creative ways to ensure the infected and the healed are not stigmatised.

He appealed to the public to instead send messages of solidarity and care to those who are infected, as well as provide them food and reading material.

Bishop Babillo underscored the spiritual help that the Christian faith provides, saying, “In all this, God loves us and our life is in His hands”.

End discrimination

Bishop Patricio Buzon of Bacolod also appealed for an end to COVID-related “hate,” which casts patients as “modern lepers.”

“All over the world,” he noted, “people are discriminated against because of colour, culture, belief, religion, and all kinds of differences.”

Prayers for healing of the country

The 70-year old bishop appealed for prayers for the country’s healing and for frontliners as cases of the new coronavirus disease continue to increase in the country.

Currently, the Catholic Church in the Philippine is in the midst of a month-long of collective prayer campaign for the end to the pandemic, the healing of the country and an end to the lockdown. With these intentions in mind, the Commissions on Seminaries and on Catechesis and Catholic Education of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged teachers, educators, seminary professors, seminarians and the Catholic faithful to pray ten “Hail Marys” every day at 12.00, from August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption, to September 15 the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

With thanks to Vatican News and Robin Gomes, where this article originally appeared.


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