Cemetery workers wear protective suits as they carry out a COVID-19 burial at the Recanto da Peace Municipal Cemetery in Breves, Para state, Brazil on June 8, 2020. (Photo: Tarso Sarraf / AFP)
Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez called for transparency and dialogue and for political parties to find common ground as disagreements between government branches led to the expiration of COVID-19 restrictions even as confirmed coronavirus cases in the country are rising. Cardinal Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, and Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas have lamented the dysfunction between El Salvador's president and members of the general assembly, which led to the expiration in mid-June of the "quarantine law" that had regulated the country's activities during the COVID-19 crisis. On June 16, the country of more than 6.5 million reported a total of more than 4,000 confirmed cases and hit a daily high of 125 new reported cases, though some believe the figures are underreported. However, some also believe that strict lockdown measures implemented in mid-March by the government of President Nayib Bukele led to the relatively low figures. However, after the president and the general assembly failed to agree on a plan in June, lockdown measures expired. Though a phased plan to open the economy was announced, many Salvadorans -- including the large majority that earns a living in the informal economy, selling wares and services on the streets -- began operating as normal almost as soon as the quarantine law expired. Even before the lockdown expired, however, some news organizations were reporting that morgues and hospitals were overwhelmed, but the reality of COVID-19 among the Salvadoran population had not been fully disclosed. Catholic leaders pleaded with the public to continue to observe social distancing, use masks to guard against contagion and to stay home.
The cardinal came under fire after he offered a critique of the president June 7, saying that "people need to work, they need to earn a living for their family," but the conditions for that to happen had to be carefully analyzed, and the president's "dictatorial position" did not lead others to feel that they were included in that process. Though one of the members of the general assembly asked that the cardinal participate, along with a member of the United Nations, as a neutral party to talks that could lead to dialogue between the executive and legislative branches of government, the prelate found himself under vicious attacks online, as some accused him of being in the pocket of the parties that disagree with the president. The cardinal, however, has a long history of attempting to mediate disagreements, including being involved in talks that eventually led to peace accords and brought an end to the country's 12-year civil war in 1992. When the cardinal called on the current administration to be "open to all," to be collaborative and not confrontational, he raised the ire of supporters of the populist Bukele, whose campaign strategy was to attack the other parties that had previously held power in El Salvador. For years, the Catholic Church has called for dialogue as a path toward lasting peace in the country, particularly as polarization has been on the rise. "We see permanent confrontations, offenses, insults of delegitimization of the adversary in the middle of this tragedy, and that we cannot accept as correct," the cardinal said June 7. "Hopefully, we can correct the course, because the way we are headed, the country is going to suffer more than expected." After the cardinal was attacked online, Archbishop Escobar came to his defense and said even though he wouldn't defend the cardinal's opinions, "because in opinions, it is always valid to disagree," he said he wanted to defend him as a person. "He enjoys our highest esteem and appreciation for his great human quality, his exemplary life as a priest, his personal integrity and the invaluable contribution he has given and continues to give to our country," he said.
Support UCA News...
As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.
That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.
Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.
UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.
We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.
Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...