A Spanish bishop has hit out at the “irresponsible behaviour” of COVID-19 denialists as a priest said four public Masses after catching the virus.

– Coronavirus sceptics “believe they can defeat the laws of nature”

The coronavirus pandemic “isn’t letting up” and “continues to take its toll in pain and death, bolstered by the irresponsible behaviour of those who believe they can defeat the laws of nature”, the Bishop of Almería in Andalusia in southeast Spain, Adolfo González Montes, warned in an August 25 pastoral letter.

“After lockdown, the pandemic continues to advance and to spread this infectious disease, from which we must defend ourselves by complying with health safety measures that help us to protect ourselves”, the bishop continued.

González Montes has been the object of criticism after deciding to go ahead this Saturday August 29 – even despite the coronavirus crisis – with the traditional procession of Almería’s patron saint, the Virgin of the Sea, from her sanctuary in the city to the cathedral.

But the bishop dismissed those critiques, and said that the procession – this year for the 500th anniversary of the Brotherhood of the Virgin of the Sea – was decided upon before the COVID-19 outbreak.

With regard to the polemics over the procession, González Montes decried that “things that are said with no more foundation than that of opinion and rumours that feed controversies do not increase devotion to Our Lady or strengthen Christian life”.

In the context of the pandemic, however, González Montes did warn that the “social crisis” that COVID-19 has precipitated is “already well visible”, with its consequences including a rise in unemployment and a drop in production “with its subsequent negative effects on the life of families and society”.

The bishop lamented that those social effects of COVID-19 “disrupt the health and education system” and also “the relations between people and social groups that support the coexistence of societies and nations”.

– COVID-19-positive priest exposes up to 120 people to virus

The wisdom of Bishop González Montes’ stern warning against thinking the “laws of nature” can be overcome in the case of the coronavirus was well illustrated this week in a parish in Huelva, in the southwest corner of Andalusia, where a priest caught the virus and proceeded to continue with his usual schedule of public Masses.

Jesús Rafael Eyamo, the priest of the parish of Aroche – a town of just over 3,000 close to the border with Portugal – tested positive for COVID-19 Sunday August 23. However, that was not before he officiated at least four public Masses after likely having caught the virus on an earlier visit to Madrid.

Though there is no suggestion that priest Eyamo is a coronavirus denialist – since in media reports he has stressed that he has been wearing a mask and disinfecting his hands during the Masses he has officiated – his actions have now exposed up to 120 people who attended his services to the virus.

Local health authorities in Aroche are now engaged in a mad scramble to contact-trace the people who could have been in Eyamo’s church last week and to stop the COVID-19 tranmission chain in the village.

After weeks of relative calm, Spain is currently experiencing a resurgence in coronavirus cases, with 2,415 new infections in the 24 hours from August 24-25.

Novenas full coverage of the COVID19 crisis:

Shaming anti-maskers doesn’t work. Here’s a better way to persuade on COVID-19, with empathy

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Major Archbishop advises COVID-19 sceptics: “Go and talk to doctors” about “threatening” disease

WHO director-general echoes Pope’s call to prevent COVID-19 vaccine nationalism, ensure universal access to treatment

As show of “practical love for our neighbours” during COVID-19, Irish Church leaders urge wearing of face masks during services

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.