An empty church
…As Pope Francis urges support for those suffering effects of the pandemic
By Luminous Jannamike
The Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, CSN, yesterday lamented the failure of the Federal Government to utilize the 425 hospitals and clinics offered by the Church’s Conference of Bishops for use as isolation centres in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Recall that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had, on May 11 2020, encouraged the 36 governors to approach the Catholic Bishops in their domains to access the facilities, warning that some of them may find it impossible to cope with the number of coronavirus cases that would be recorded in their states.
However, in a statement on the World Day of the Sick, signed by CSN’s Director, Church and Society, Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, the Catholic church regretted that the government did not recognise the value of the sacrifice made by the Church through the offer of the 425 hospitals, claiming that the authorities never showed any gratitude in that regard.
He also stated that the Church had been effective in providing assistance to the sick and poor members of the society especially in the rural areas, and charged the government to be alive to its responsibility of supporting the efforts targeted at the adequate provision of healthcare services.
The statement reads in part, “During the intense period of the COVID-19, the Church in Nigeria, through the Bishops’ Conference donated to the government of this country the 425 health facilities to use in order to reach the grass root.
“The government in its ineptitude never appreciated this great sacrifice made by the Church, never used one, never showed any gratitude in that regard, yet the Church continued in her little way to show solace and assistance to the poor at her disposal in the rural areas and wherever they find themselves.
“What we have been doing are not enough. The Church hasn’t the resources at her disposal to give a hundred per cent healthcare services for everyone is rural areas because she has not that type of resources.
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“The government of the country should have been able to give subvention to Church facilities, equip them to give a 100 per cent health care services for everyone in rural areas because at the end of the day, the services are to Nigerian citizens.
“The government has maintained a dysfunctional healthcare system. And so, cannot think of assisting the Church with grants. We are calling on the government to see the need to partner with the Church.”
Earlier, at a virtual conference, the Catholic Bishop of Yola Diocese, Most Rev. Stephen Mamza, read out the Pope Francis’ message on the World Day of the Sick.
The Catholic Pontiff called on the world to remember those who continue to suffer the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“On the World Day of the Sick, special attention goes to those who are ill and to those who assist them. I think especially of those who suffer the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic,” Pope Francis said.
He also expressed his spiritual closeness to the poor and marginalised in the society, while reassuring of the Church’s concern for them.
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