AMERICA/UNITED STATES – US Bishops express solidarity with indigenous communities during the pandemic

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Washington (Agenzia Fides) – Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux and chairman of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and chairman of USCCB’s Committe on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup and chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Native American Affairs have released the following statement in solidarity with Native and Indigenous communities who are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
” As Native Communities continue to greatly suffer from the COVID-19 epidemic, the Church is developing ways to draw upon its deep roots in the person of Jesus to foster strength, charity and support to those who are sick and those who have died. We cherish our close connections to Native Communities through our Catholic parishes, missions and schools. We recall once more our profound desire to develop pathways to hope. We are heartbroken over reports that Native and Indigenous communities across this country are suffering at disproportionately high rates from the COVID-19 pandemic and concerned about the lack of sufficient resources to respond to the crisis. We are especially mindful of the Navajo Nation where people are being infected with the coronavirus at some of the highest rates in the country. We hold in prayer our brothers and sisters who are suffering and grieving in these communities, and we stand with them in calling for a robust response to the pandemic in their lands”, reads the statement sent to Fides.
The Bishops note that “adequate funding” has long been “a challenge” for the Indian Health Service (IHS), which is a federal agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and stress that the IHS reports of “shortages of medical personnel and hospital beds”. The agency provides comprehensive health services to nearly 2 million Native Americans and Native populations in Alaska.
Archbishop Coakley and Bishops Fabre and Wall said they hoped that the Senate’s unanimous confirmation of a new director of the IHS on April 22 could also “affirm the recognition for the need of a strong advocate for the health needs of tribal communities”. “It is also good that additional resources were allocated in recent legislation, and it is essential that this funding reach its intended recipients as soon as possible”, they say.
In the United States, there are more than 1.5 million cases of Covid-19 with more than 86,000 deaths. According to the press, the Latins, the natives and the native populations are the ones most at risk. (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 15/05/2020)

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