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Church leaders in Brazil call for help as new strain spreads  

22 January 2021


Two women receive Covid 19 vaccination in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, on Monday

Two women receive Covid 19 vaccination in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, on Monday

CHURCH leaders in Brazil have called for urgent support for hospitals as a new strain of the coronavirus spreads rapidly. The country now has the second highest number of Covid-19 deaths after the United States: more than 210,000.

Sister Irene, from the Brazilian organisation REPAM, who works alongside communities throughout the Brazilian Amazon, said: “The situation is dramatic. Many people are dying outside the largest public hospital of Manaus [the capital city of the state of Amazonas] while waiting. The same is happening inside the hospital, due to lack of staff, oxygen, and ICU beds.”

The Roman Catholic aid agency CAFOD reported that on one day alone in Manaus there were 213 burials.

The Archbishop of Manaus, the Most Revd Leonardo Steiner, called on the international community for urgent support. “In the first wave, people died from a lack of information, beds in hospitals, and ICUs in Amazonas and Roraima. Today, in the second wave, people are dying, incredible as it may seem, from a lack of oxygen. Even hospitalised, they lack oxygen.

“We bishops of Amazonas and Roraima make an appeal: for the love of God, send us oxygen. The population cannot continue to die for lack of oxygen and beds in the ICUs. We are in a difficult moment of the pandemic, which seems almost without an end. Let us all make our contribution and engage with solidarity in caring for the life of one another.”

The death of Cardinal Eusébio Oscar Scheid, retired Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, was announced this week, after he tested positive for Covid-19.

Ten RC bishops died from the virus in a single week this month, after testing positive for coronavirus. Four bishops died on the same day, Wednesday of last week, including the Archbishop of Glasgow, the Most Revd Philip Tartaglia, aged 70, and the youngest bishop to die, Bishop Moses Hamungole, 53, from the diocese of Monze, in Zambia.

The death from Covid-19 of the first woman bishop of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, was announced on Tuesday. She is believed to be the first Anglican bishop to die of Covid. Aged 69, she had been admitted to hospital last week with Covid and treated with oxygen.

Bishop Wamukoya was consecrated in 2012 to serve as Bishop of Swaziland. She was known around the world for championing environmental issues. Tributes flooded in after her death was announced.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba said: “It is with profound sorrow that I have to announce the devastating news that the Bishop of Swaziland in eSwatini, the Right Reverend Ellinah Wamukoya, died today. We express our deepest condolences to her husband, Okwaro Henry Wamukoya, their children and grandchildren. May her soul rest in peace.”

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes said that she was a “calm, deeply rooted person of holiness and integrity”.

At her consecration, Bishop Wamukoya said that she was “going to try to represent the mother attribute of God. . . A mother is a caring person, but at the same time, a mother can be firm in doing whatever she is doing.”

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