Vatican City, Jul 10, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis sent a video message Thursday to the priests who work in Argentina’s poor neighborhoods serving the sick and vulnerable amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I want to be close to you at this time, as I know that you are fighting with prayer and the help of medical professionals,” Pope Francis said in the video published on Twitter by Buenos Aires priests July 9.
The pope said that he had heard that three priests who minister in the barrios had become sick. He mentioned in particular Fr. Basilicio “Bachi” Britez, who has been hospitalized with COVID-19 since June 21, according to Vatican News.
“I want to tell you that I am close to you, that I pray for you, that I accompany you at this time, all the people of God, along with their sick priests,” the pope said.
“It is time to thank God for the witness of these priests, ask for their health and move forward. May God bless you and do not forget to pray for me,” he added.
El Papa Francisco reza con nosotros por la salud del Padre Bachi, que sigue en terapia con #coronavirus, y por los sacerdotes de las barriadas que luchan junto al pueblo contra la pandemia #OremosJuntos @Pontifex_es pic.twitter.com/cwfOvOrjsl
— Curas Villeros (@PastoralVillera) July 9, 2020
Pope Francis’ message was sent to the Curas Villeros, a team of priests who minister in the poor neighborhoods in and surrounding Buenos Aires, where the coronavirus has now spread.
These priests have been advocating for better medical treatment within these neighborhoods, issuing a statement June 29 denouncing the “scandalous delays of ambulances” and poor health systems that could better serve the communities “on the margins” of the city.
Their statement came after the death of Ramona Collante, a woman who died May 30 after her family repeatedly called an ambulance, which arrived two hours late.
There have been 90,693 documented cases of COVID-19 in Argentina, according to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Argentina’s neighbors have seen much higher rates of infection.
Chile has recorded 306,216 cases and Brazil has had more than 1.7 million COVID-19 cases.
On July 9 the UN Secretary General António Guterres said that Latin America and the Caribbean were now suffering from some of the highest per capita infection rates in the world. He said that this would have “unprecedented social and economic impacts” that must be addressed.
“The most vulnerable populations and individuals are once again being hit the hardest,” Guterres said.
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