The poor are the people most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The alarm was raised by Caritas Switzerland, which in a statement published March 23 warned that “in crisis situations, the weakest members of society are the most vulnerable” and for which reason launched a call for solidarity.
“Just as small businesses are facing liquidity problems, many households at risk of poverty don’t have money to pay their bills at the end of the month”, the Catholic Church relief, development and social service organisation said in the statement.
Caritas Switzerland denounced that families don’t have access to credit lines guaranteed by the Federal Department of Finance and that low-income families and single people will suffer crises in very little time.
Among those most at risk, warned Caritas, are the women and mothers who worked as domestic employees: today many of them are forced to return to their homes and can’t even receive unemployment benefits because they haven’t been registered by their employers.
There are also families who can’t pay medical bills because they’re not covered by health insurance, mothers who were employed as babysitters but now are no longer called in to work, and seasonal workers in the hotel industry who had supplemental income but who no longer have that money to rely on.
For the Director of Caritas Switzerland, Hugo Fasel, these people are in great danger: the more precarious their working conditions, the greater the risk to them.
It’s to these vulnerable people that the emergency aid of Caritas goes, which is why the Church charity is appealing for solidarity from Swiss citizens.
“We must do everything possible to prevent people from being forced to resort to social assistance due to the coronavirus crisis”, Fasel cautioned.
– Public Mass ban: “We cannot ignore human rules of protection”
In the meantime, as the number of people infected with coronavirus in Switzerland reached 10,714 this March 16 and the number of dead from the disease climbed to 161, the Swiss Bishops implemented a suspension on all public Masses until at least April 30.
“Some people were scandalized by such a decision”, Bishop Charles Morerod of the largest Swiss diocese – that of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg – told the National Catholic Register March 24.
But the prelate stood by the Swiss Bishops’ decision, arguing that it was true that if people continued to pray and celebrate Mass publicly in the time of the Black Death, for example – a comparison critics of coronavirus public Mass shutdowns often adduce – it is also true that “there were from 50 to 100 million deaths at that time”.
Though Catholics in Switzerland continue to complain and ask for more guidance and accompaniment from their bishops and pastors during this period of Lent, especially, the Church in the country is trying to strike the right balance between health care and pastoral care.
“We are trying to diligently align with the strict measures that the federal office of public health has taken, but at the same time, we are striving to remain fully available for our parishioners”, Father Dominique Fabien Rimaz, priest of the Pastoral Unity of Our Lady of Fribourg and chaplain of the Hospital of Fribourg, told the Register.
“We must show inventiveness while respecting safety rules in order not to put anyone in danger”, Fabien Rimaz continued, warning Catholics against a providentialism that would downplay the risks of the virus.
“In the words of Thomas Aquinas, ‘grace presupposes nature’, which means that we cannot ignore human rules of protection”.
(With information from Vatican News)