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Bangladesh archbishop critically ill with Covid-19

Catholics pray for Archbishop Costa of Chittagong after he is admitted to hospital

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Bangladesh archbishop critically ill with Covid-19

Holy Cross Archbishop Moses M. Costa of Chittagong (right) is critically ill in hospital. (Photo: Chittagong Archdiocese)

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A Catholic archbishop in Bangladesh has tested positive for Covid-19 and is in a critical condition in a private hospital in capital Dhaka.

Holy Cross Archbishop Moses M. Costa of Chittagong Archdiocese in southeastern Bangladesh has been admitted to Square Hospital.

Father Leonard C. Rebeiro, vicar general of the archdiocese, issued a statement on June 14 to confirm the case.

“Dear clergy, religious and lay faithful, Archbishop Moses M. Costa of Chittagong was admitted to Square Hospital with serious ailments on June 13. During admission his sample was collected for a Covid-19 test and the report came positive today. We request your special prayers and sacrifices for speedy recovery of Archbishop Costa,” the statement read.

Archbishop Costa, 70, is the first known case among senior Catholic clergy in Bangladesh to be infected with the novel coronavirus.

It comes after two high-profile Covid-19 deaths in Bangladesh. Muhammad Nasim, 72, a ruling Awami League MP and former minister of health and home, died on June 13. He was followed by Sheikh Abdullah, 75, incumbent state minister of religious affairs, who died on June 14.

Archbishop Costa was appointed bishop of Chittagong in 2011 and became an archbishop when Pope Francis elevated Chittagong, known as the cradle of Catholicism in Bangladesh, to an archdiocese in 2017. He served as bishop of Dinajpur from 1996 to 2011.

Archbishop Costa is secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh and chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Healthcare Commission.

Prayers for a speedy recovery

The news about his illness sent shockwaves among Bangladeshi Christians at home and abroad. Hundreds posted on social media platforms like Facebook to express their concern and promising to pray for his speedy recovery.

Chittagong was among the first of the eight Catholic dioceses in Bangladesh to issue Covid-19 health guidelines and closed all churches for public liturgy even before Bangladesh declared a nationwide shutdown from March 26.

Bangladesh lifted the shutdown on May 31 and since then all dioceses except Chittagong have opened churches for public liturgy including Masses.

An official from Chittagong told UCA News that the decision not to resume services was prompted by fast-growing Covid-19 cases in the port city recently.

“Archbishop Costa maintained strict lockdown measures since March, but we are shocked to know he has been infected. Now we are afraid for ourselves as we had interactions with him,” the official told UCA News on condition of anonymity.

All Chittagong Archdiocese staff have been advised to stay in isolation at home and to continue working from home, the official added.

Chittagong, Bangladesh’s financial hub and second-largest city, has seen a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. Its Kotwali area has been marked as a hotspot. 

The Muslim-majority country had recorded 87,520 confirmed cases and 1,171 deaths from Covid-19 as of June 14.

More than 30 people from the minority Christian community have been infected and five have died in recent weeks.

Aiming to salvage a crumbling economy, Bangladesh eased Covid-19 restrictions on May 31 and allowed the reopening of public transport, businesses, public and private offices on a limited scale on condition of strict health procedures including physical distancing. Only education institutes continue to be closed indefinitely.

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