“Apart from feeding those vulnerable, there are other subtle issues (connected with COVID-19) such as stigma. It is not talked about much, but for example, in South Africa, it is a concern. People are thrown out of their houses because they are suspected of having COVID-19, and there is the fear that they will infect others. Stigma is something that we are also dealing with as a dicastery,” said Cardinal Turkson.
Preparing the future through the local Churches
Cardinal Turkson, the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was speaking at a Press Conference with Vatican Media held Tuesday. The Livestream Press Conference was held under the theme, “Preparing the future through the local Churches at the time of COVID-19.” Mr Aloysius John, Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis also made a presentation on the work that the organisation was doing in collaborating with the dicastery.
Cardinal Turkson emphasised that while all charitable works the Church was involved in were necessary, the COVID-19 pandemic was a global phenomenon that had social consequences. He said the Church has to find innovative ways of disseminating correct information when dealing with discriminatory discourse, hatred and indeed stigma.
Condoling with families
The Cardinal further alluded to the many families who have lost loved ones and were unable to accord a fitting farewell and burial to a relation. The Church needs to be close to such families said the Cardinal.
“Condoling with those who have lost dear ones… Burials these days take place under terrible circumstances these days. Relatives do not have the opportunity to be close to their loved even as they die and are being buried,” said Cardinal Turkson.
In recent interviews, South Africa’s Bishop of Aliwal Diocese, Joseph Kizito has spoken about how Church officials in the country are fighting to combat COVID-19 related stigma.
Names of recovered persons on social media
The stigmatisation is not only a problem of South Africa. In many countries, there have been incidents of recovered persons’ names being circulated on social media, causing them to be shunned by society. Medical personnel working with COVID-19 patients have also faced discrimination.
On the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May, South Africa’s Bishops wrote a letter encouraging the faithful not to give in to the fear of COVID-19, particularly during the Lockdown.
“Our hearts go out to all who are depressed. We understand the fear. The Church sees each as infinitely precious. We are living branches of the Vine. (God) is intimately within for He cannot be locked out,” said the Bishops.