The Prior General's 9th communiqué
Rome,18 September, 2020
COVID – 19 (9)
To all our Brothers and Co-workers, Members of the Hospitaller Family ofSt. John of God
I send you mycordial best wishes, trusting that you are well and full of hope at this timeof the coronavirus pandemic, which is continuing to spread throughout the world,albeit at different rates. We have now reached 30 million cases of infection,with 950,000 deaths, worldwide.
We know theconsequences of the pandemic in terms of health, society and the economy, althoughwe do not yet know their magnitude, but according to all the experts, they aregoing to be huge. This situation is having a massive impact on our lives,especially on our way of life, as well as our programmes and activities, whichare being seriously affected by the pandemic. But it is also making us develop ourcreativity and seek new ways of working and relating, and more sensitive to theneed for solidarity and the pursuit of the common good.
The pandemiccontinues to spread around the world, unevenly, but permanently. In America,especially in the United States, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Chile and othercountries, the situation continued to worsen over recent months, but thenumbers of the sick now appear to be declining. In Asia, India is the countrywhere the contagion is continuing to spread more widely and in Africa thesituation to date is quite contained, although cases of contagion are stillrising in a few countries. In Europe, the situation has been kept quite wellunder control in recent months, but the cases of infection are rising once again,especially in some countries, so there is already talk of a second wave of infection.Yet the healthcare situation is under much more better control and there are nodifficulties with hospital care at present. On the other hand many tests are beingdone, and that is helping to identify many asymptomatic positive cases.
Whilesignificant progress has been made in the treatment of Covid-19, all our hopesof a final solution rest on finding the right vaccine. Many research groups inseveral countries quickly set to work on it and some are well ahead, and eventhink that vaccines may well be available by the end of the year, or early nextyear, although their efficacy and above all their safety will need to be provenfirst. Until that happens, we have to live without being fearful whileremaining very cautious, complying with the safety measures being demanded of us,and acting very responsibly by shielding the most vulnerable people above all.
As for theimpact of Covid-19 on the Order, as I said in my last communiqué, the mainfocus is still currently on America, especially South America. According to thelatest figures on this Region, we have had 526 Infected Co-workers, of whom onehas died, and 1,692 virus-positive patients and 53 deaths, with 16 Brotherstesting positive, 8 of whom are still positive at home and one Brother hasrecently died in the Province of Colombia.
As for theBrothers of the Order, and including the figures I have data just mentioned, wehave had 65 infected Brothers, with 6 deaths, and 49 who have recoveredsatisfactorily, with 10 still testing positive.
The newincrease in the number of Co-workers who have tested positive for thecoronavirus is shown in the data on Latin America. In the rest of the worldwhere the Order is present, in recent months the numbers of those affected havefallen considerably, while there have always been new cases emerging. On thewhole, since the beginning, some 1,500 Co-workers have been infected since the beginning,of whom 3 have died.
Altogether,some 6,000 patients infected with the coronavirus have been admitted to ourhospitals or have tested positive for the virus in our residential and social carecentres , of whom around 550 have died. Let us pray to our Lord for all themembers of our Hospitaller Family affected by Covid-19, for all patients in ourCentres and all those who are suffering from the effects of the pandemicthroughout the world, and those who have died.
These are the impactsand effects of the pandemic on health on the Order. But as for the financialsituation and sustainability of our Centres, at the moment everyone is making ahuge effort and adapting to the situation, totally at the service of the publichealth authorities to play their part in providing health and social care andtaking the necessary measures to ensure efficient resource management. However,once this situation ends we shall see the effects and the repercussions it willhave on many of our Apostolic Works in the future. To all those responsible,Brothers and Co-workers alike, I thank you for your efforts and your commitmentto keeping our mission and service to the sick alive and active in each of ourCentres. My thanks also to all the Brothers and Co-workers for their enormouscommitment and dedication in these difficult times of the pandemic. Inparticular, I am so grateful to our social action centres, retirement homes, shelteredaccommodation, mental health centres and our facilities for people with disabilities,for their great service in caring for our guests and their loved ones.
Within the Orderand the Provinces, the effects of the pandemic are significantly influencingthe dynamics and the programmes we had planned beforehand. There is still verylittle mobility which means that we have to carry out many activities andmeetings in virtual format. As far as they are able, the Provinces and Regionsare holding their meetings telematically. Likewise, the General Curia decidedto suspend all the face-to-face activities planned in Rome until the end ofthis year. We shall hold as many meetings as possible, in virtual mode, to beable to continue implementing the bulk of our scheduled activities.
As I told youin my last communication, the Assembly of Major Superiors, scheduled forOctober, was suspended, and a virtual meeting of the General Definitory wasscheduled with the Provincial Superiors of each Region. It will be a smallermeeting, at which a few papers on the topics indicated by the General Chapter willbe presented, and other topics of interest to the Provinces will be discussed.In principle, and given the situation as it was a few months ago, we thoughtthat we might hold a face-to-face meeting with the Provincial Superiors ofEurope in Rome. However, at the General Definitory meeting on 9 September wedecided to suspend that meeting as well, and hold it virtually, as with theother Regions, due to the rise in infections once again and the difficulties incomplying with the protocols issued for the Curia with a group of close tothirty people.
We are lookingforward the latest Encyclical of Pope Francis who will sign it in Assisi at thebeginning of October. The title will be "All Brothers"(Fratelli tutti), on fraternity and social friendship. I am sure it will offera great deal of food for thought, in harmony with the pandemic times we are livingthrough. I urge everyone to read it and work on it in the community and ingroups. Let me conclude with a few wordsof Pope Francis at the General Audience on 9 September, in which he made hissixth catechesis on the pandemic, entitled "Healing the World. Love andcommon good."
A virus thatdoes not recognize barriers, borders, or cultural or political distinctionsmust be faced with a love without barriers, borders or distinctions. This lovecan generate social structures that encourage us to share rather than tocompete, that allow us to include the most vulnerable and not to cast themaside, and that help us to express the best in our human nature and not theworst. True love does not know the throw-away culture, it does not know what itis. In fact, when we love and generate creativity, when we generate trust andsolidarity, it is then that concrete initiatives for the common good emerge.And this is true at both the level of the smallest and largest communities, aswell as at the international level. What is done in the family, what is done inthe neighbourhood, what is done in the village, what is done in the largecities and internationally is the same; it is the same seed that grows andbears fruit. If you in your family, in your neighbourhood start out with envy,with fights, there will be “war” in the end. Instead, if you start out withlove, sharing love, forgiveness, there will be love and forgiveness foreveryone.”
At this timeof the pandemic, let us stop competing and break down the borders and barriers thatseparate us, and go on proposing the culture of hospitality and fraternity,which generates solidarity and the common good, which casts no-one off, butshows special kindness and love for the poorest and most vulnerable.
United inhospitality and in prayer, I send you my fraternal best wishes.
COVID – 19 (8)
To all the Brothers and Co-workers, Members of the Hospitaller Family ofSt. John of God
Dear Brothersand Co-workers,
I am writingonce again about the coronavirus pandemic which has been gradually affectingevery continent and every country in theworld since the beginning of the year, with a few differences, but with hugerepercussions on everyone, in the areasof health care, the economy and people’s social, psychological and spiritual life ingeneral.
Covid-19contagions are on the increase and the number of the affected is rising all thetime: today, there are about 17 million infected people worldwide, of whom morethan 660,000 have died. The United States, Brazil and India are the countrieswith the most positive cases. Alongside them, some Latin American countries,such as Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, are now seriously strickenby the pandemic. In the coming months, we hope that the incidence and virulenceof the virus in these badly hit countries will decline.
In Africa, theimpact has not been very strong so far, but the numbers of infected people aregradually growing, especially in South Africa and a few other countries. As Iwrite, in the countries where the Order is present, the situation is relativelyunder control and in our Centres in Africa we have had very few positive cases.
In Europe andcountries such as China, Korea, Australia and others, which had been throughdifficult times at the start of the pandemic, the situation has now improved,although fresh outbreaks are continuing, as a warning to everyone to be verycautious and to continue to take all every prevention measure, even by re-imposingmore restrictive measures. In some places, new outbreaks of contagion aremaking it harder to control them, and there is even talk about the possibilityof new waves in the months to come. In short, we all know that until there isan effective vaccine available, we must get used to living with the virus.
As for theimpact of Covid-19 on the Order, the main focus is still America, especiallythe South, as it was in my last communication. Some Houses have been through,or are now passing through difficult times. The latest data we have on ourLatin American Centres are as follows: 330 Co-workers have been infected, ofwhom one has died; 779 patients have tested positive of whom 21 have died, and3 Brothers have tested positive, one admitted to hospital.
As far as theBrothers of the Order are concerned, according to the data mentioned above, 51Brothers have been infected, (five of whom have died as I reported in previous notices)and 43 have recovered satisfactorily.
The number of Co-workerstesting positive for coronavirus, in addition to those just mentioned in LatinAmerica, are slightly more in other continents, but the incidence is very lowat the moment. Altogether, over 1,000 Co-workers have been infected, and threehave died, as we have already reported.
It isdifficult to accurately estimate the number of people infected with coronavirusadmitted to our hospitals and those who have tested positive in our residentialand social care centres. However, so far around 5,000 positive patients havebeen cared for in our Houses, of whom some 500 have died. Let us all pray tothe Lord for the members of our Hospitaller Family affected by the virus, forall patients in our Centres, and for all the people worldwide suffering from theeffects of the pandemic.
These are thedata on the pandemic and the impact on the world and on the Order. As I havesaid, we have no idea how it will continue to evolve, but it is obvious that itwill continue living with us, at least until we have an effective vaccine.While it is true that we are slowly getting to know and learn more about thevirus to be better prepared to control and deal with it, not every country hasthe same resources. The fact remains that the pandemic is seriously damagingthe world economy and especially the economies of many countries that arealready in a difficult situation, which is bringing with it many otherdetrimental effects in terms of physical and psychological health,unemployment, poverty, hunger and other diseases that are not being adequatelyaddressed because of Covid-19. In my previous communication I mentioned this asthe "new normal" that we have to get used to, and certainly haslittle to do with the normal way of life we enjoyed before.
Time ispassing and the pandemic is continuing to strike. It is normal for uncertaintyand sometimes pessimism to grow in the face of events, including the unhelpfuldecisions and actions of certain politicians that we have all seen on thesocial media. That is why it is important more than ever to continue appealingto everyone, especially young people, to show responsibility, generosity andsolidarity with those who are infected, with those who are most at risk, suchas the elderly, sick, excluded and marginalised, who are suffering mostdirectly from the consequences of the pandemic by unemployment so many otherpsychological and spiritual repercussions.
Since thepandemic is continuing to spread widely let me reiterate the fact that hospitality is the best guarantee fordealing with this situation. Our Hospitaller Family of St. John of God ispassing through a charismatic emergency, in which we must give of ourbest in serving the poor, sick and needy, firstly during the health crisis, butalso in the enduring economic and social crisis that often coexist. I know thatthe Order is making a great effort and an appropriate charismatic response tothis emergency wherever it is present. That is why I wish once again to thankall the members of our St. John of God Family, for the commitment and theservice you are deploying for the victims of Covid-19, making the Hospitalityof the Good Samaritan, bequeathed to us by St. John of God, our Founder, everalive and evident.
The effects ofcoronavirus are still having a major impact on the dynamics and life of theOrder. Movement is severely restricted at the moment and so it is only possibleto perform some of our scheduled activities remotely and virtually, both at thethe General Curia and in the Provincial Curias. In principle, it is only inEurope that it is possible to move about to a certain extent, and in fact wehave been able to hold some face-to-face meetings. However, we will have to seewhether or not it will be possible in the coming months, depending on theevolution of the virus outbreaks.
A few days agothe members of the General Definitory held a virtual meeting to discuss someissues and report on the current situation in the different regions of theOrder. Among other things, and since we had had to cancel the Assembly ofProvincial Superiors planned in Rome for the first week of October, we agreedto organise some General Council meetings with Provincial Superiors by region,in order to work onvarious matters already scheduled and to present a fewdocuments for implementation in the Provinces and Delegations. Some of thedocuments will be circulated shortly to be read and studied by the ProvincialSuperiors. In the first half of September, the convocation notice will be sentout in writing. These meetings will be virtual and will take place in the firstfortnight of October. Only if the pandemic permits it, will the meeting of theEuropean Region be held face to face. Itwas also agreed to try to hold as many as possible of the General and RegionalCommission meetings scheduled for this year in virtual format. All otherface-to-face activities will remain cancelled, until it becomes possible totravel again.
Let me endwith a few words from the Letter entitled "Let’s Take Care of One AnotherJust As Our Saving God Cares For Us", addressed to all the Religiousin the world by Sr Jolanta Kafka RMI, President of the UISG and Fr Arturo SosaSJ, President of USG, 29 June 2020:
"The LordJesus promised to be with us every day until the end of history and he gave ushis spirit, which reminds us of everything he learned from the Father andtransmitted to us as his followers.
In ReligiousLife we are called to bear witness to the tender love of God who, in Jesus,takes care of all human beings. We are called to take care of the lives of thediscarded, which this pandemic has multiplied exponentially, a consequence ofthe unjust structures of our world, unable to put human beings and the CommonGood at the centre of local, national or world political decisions.
We are called to take care of the present andfuture of humanity, in its relationship with the environment, accompanyingyoung people and learning from them, to renew the meaning of our life andmission as consecrated persons.
In the face ofso much neglect, highlighted by the pandemic, we want, as religious andconsecrated persons, to initiate processes that lead to a culture of care,through deep dialogue with our companions in the mission. With the greatestrespect for the conscience and vocation of each one, an environment ofdiscernment may begenerated that can enlighten the apostolic programming andcan contribute to themission of reconciling all things in Christ. To care, andto allow oneself to be cared for in order to grow as religious in a universaldimension.”
At thispandemic time, let us proclaim the culture of care for all, especially theweakest and most vulnerable, so that the hope and trust always offered to us bythe God of Life may continue to reign. Take care of each other, with thetenderness and hospitality with which God cares for us!
United inhospitality and prayer, I send you all my fraternal best wishes.
Brother Jesús Etayo
COVID – 19 (7)
To all the Brothers and Co-workers, Members of the Hospitaller Family ofSt. John of God
I last wroteto you about a month ago about the coronavirus pandemic and the impact it washaving on the world and our Order. But far from improving, more parts of theworld have since been affected, and the virus is continuing to spread and becomealarmingly more acute. At the present time, just under ten million people have nowbeen infected by Covid-19, of whom around half a million have died and fivemillion have recovered.
The epicentreof the pandemic is no longer in Europe, but has moved to America, both in theNorth, especially the United States, and in Central and South America, wherethe hardest-hit countries are Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico, although thesituation is also worrying in other countries in the region.
Another major areawhere outbreaks are expanding is India, with more than half a million people infectedand over 15,000 deaths. On the African continent, at the moment the coronaviruspandemic is not so severe, but the numbers of sick people are rising and it isfeared that they may increase much further later on, which we sincerely hope will not be the case, for the good ofall.
In Europe and incountries such as China, Korea, Australia and others, the situation hasimproved, lockdowns and quarantines are now virtually over, and what is being called"the new normal", which means having to comply with prudential and safetymeasures, is returning. People are anxious to avoid backsliding and making it necessary to isolate once again,although we already have frequent pockets of contagion that are under controlfor the time being. Medical specialists are also fearful of new waves ofcontagion later on, at least until an effective vaccine is found, and that islikely to take time, despite the hastened pace of research.
As for theimpact of Covid-19 on the Order, the situation varies according to the epicentre.When the main hotspot was Europe, the impact was very severe, as everyoneknows. At the moment it has weakened considerably, and seems to be undercontrol.
None of the Brothersof the Order are sick with the virus anywhere in the world, as things standtoday. We have had a total of 47 infected Brothers, of whom five have died, asI reported in my previous messages, and 42 have now recovered satisfactorily.
A very large numberof Co-workers have tested positive for coronavirus. But apart from three who havesadly died, all of them have recovered. We have no precise numbers of theCo-workers who have been infected during the pandemic, but we know that therehave been at least 800. Of these, around 200 are still ill, most of them in Housesin America. There have also been a few casesin Europe, but their numbers are now declining, with very few in Africa, allunder control.
Regarding thenumber of coronavirus-infected people admitted to our hospitals, in addition tothe people who have tested positive to the virus in our residential and social centres,as things stand today we have cared for about 4000 patients in our Houses, of whomaround 400 have died.
These are the roughfacts and figures on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected us to date as faras people’s health is concerned. But as I mentioned in my previouscommunications, other areas are also being severely impacted by this pandemic,such as the economy, as well people’s social and spiritual wellbeing. In someplaces, the people are returning to work in all sectors, but with great cautionand anxious to avoid taking steps backwards, giving rise to fresh outbreaks leadingto further lockdowns. Even so, the economic crisis is predicted to be huge,with major job losses for many people, creating many social problems and affectingfamily life. And this will occur without any certainty about how the pandemic mightevolve, which could lead to even more difficult and complicated scenarios.
In manyplaces, especially where things seem to be most under control, there is talk of"the new normality." A truly novel term, that in itself implies thatit is not a real normal. It is not really ‘normal’ because although many areas arenow free to move around in, every day we have to live as if we are "atrisk", to make sure we do not lowerour guard in the event of a real and very possible fresh outbreak. We have to ‘sociallydistance’ ourselves, wear face masks, wash our hands frequently and so manyother things. We can go out and meet the Brothers, our families and friends,but always "taking great care". But even this is a lot to ask ofpeople who have already had to spend months isolated and locked down in their homes.We can now go to work, taking due care, with regard to meetings etc, so thathome-working seems to have become permanently established, and the onlineplatforms are making it possible for us to hold all kinds of meetings. We cango to the bar and to restaurants, we can travel to certain places... but always"taking care," until there is an effective vaccine.
This newnormal is an uncertain normal. We cannot, and must not, lower our guard.And it is also a normal that demands a sense of responsibility, becauseignoring calls to act prudently can also affect others. The present moment isalso necessarily calling out for generosity and solidarity,because the coronavirus threatens people's lives and also their livelihoods.And, as is always the case, those who suffer the most will certainly be thepoorest and most vulnerable. Lastly, this is why this this novel “new normal”phase has to be addressed by guaranteeing hospitality: responsible,generous and supportive, inclusive and welcoming hospitality, in the face of allthis uncertainty
In my previousmessages, while we were living under lockdown in many parts of the world,especially in Europe at the time, I told you that the hour of hospitalityhad arrived. Now I am saying the same to those of you living in places whereyou are in quarantine or lockdown. But I am also saying it for those of us whohave embarked on this "new normal": for all of us, it is also thehour of hospitality. We must reach out beyond ourselves responsibly, generouslyand with solicitude, to welcome the many people who are living in uncertaintyand precariously in any area of their lives. I urge all the Brothers,Communities and Centres once again to be sensitive to the needs of the peopleat this time and to help them generously, creatively and boldly. Will youplease notify the General Curia Secretariatof the initiatives and projects that your Provinces, Centres andCommunities are carrying out along the lines of everything I have just said. Thiswill be a great way to share these initiatives that we can publicise throughoutthe whole Order on our website.
Thecoronavirus pandemic is having an obvious impact on the work and activities ofthe Order, the Provincial Curias and the General Curia. We have had to cancelalmost all our scheduled visits, as well as visits and face-to-face meetings inRome. During this time, we have held several virtual sessions of the GeneralDefinitory, to be able to keep track of, and respond to essential issues in thelife of the Order. On June 25 we had the last meeting of the General Definitory,and looking ahead to the likely situation of the pandemic in the world, we decidedto cancel the General Canonical Visitations planned for 2020, as well as theAssembly of Provincial Superiors scheduled for the beginning of October. Aroundthese dates we shall certainly be planning to hold online meetings with theProvincial Superiors, either by Region or by language, to deal with some of themore urgent issues and news. At the Curia General, we shall endeavour to hold allthe commission and working group meetings in virtual form. If the situationdoes not change much, all the meetings and visits, at least the intercontinentalones, will be deferred to a later date.
I would like,once again, to thank all the Brothers, Co-workers and Volunteers of all theHouses of the Order, for your efforts, service and commitment in the fightagainst the pandemic, sometimes under the most difficult conditions. You arehonouring St. John of God and all the many Brothers and Co-workers throughoutthe history of the Order who have thrown themselves, without a thought fortheir own safety, into the fight again suffering, poverty and disease, often duringfierce epidemics that have taken many of their lives. This was the price theypaid for radically living hospitality. We pray that our Lord will ensure thatno-one will lose their lives and, if possible, that no-one will become infectedby this virus, and that we may be equally radical and responsible Hospitallersas they were.
Let me close witha few of the ever-inspiring words of Pope Francis, to the priests of theDiocese of Rome on 31 May 2020:
Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be withyou. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Thedisciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace bewith you!” (Jn 20:19-21)
The Lord didnot choose the perfect situation to appear suddenly in the midst of hisdisciples. Certainly we would have preferred that what happened did not have tohappen, but it did; and like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we too cancontinue to speak sadly and in hushed tones along the way (cf. Lk 24:13-21).Yet by appearing in the Upper Room behind closed doors, amid the isolation,fear and insecurity experienced by the disciples, the Lord was able to surpassall expectations and to give a new meaning to history and human events. Anytime is fitting for the message of peace; in no situation is God’s grace everlacking. Jesus’ appearance in the midst of confinement and forced absence proclaims,for those disciples and for us today, a new day capable of challenging allparalysis and resignation, and harnessing every gift for the service of thecommunity. By his presence, confinement became fruitful, giving life to the newapostolic community.
The presenceof Our Lord changes everything. May the hope and assurance we are offered by the peace of the Risen Lord, wholives in our midst, reign over us all in times of uncertainty and trouble.
United inhospitality and prayer, I send you my fraternal best wishes.
COVID – 19 (6)
To all the Brothers and Co-workers , Members of the Hospitaller Familyof St. John of God
I am writingto you for the sixth time on the subject of the coronavirus pandemic that isstill spreading throughout the world, although the impact on the people is changingas time passes. Today, almost five million people have been diagnosed positive withCovid-19, and more than 325,000 people have already died. There are also manythousands of others who have been restored to health. However, the pandemiccontinues to advance, in some places for the first time and in others with the fearof new waves of infection in the offing. All are hoping for a vaccine that willprove effective and be within reach of the entire world population, which isgoing to take time, yet to be determined.
In many partsof the world, and thanks to the restrictive emergency measures taken, infectionsand deaths have been greatly reduced. These countries are currently embarkingon a new phase, with fewer restrictions, in order to gradually return to whatsome are calling the "new normal", while fearing that they may haveto step back again in the event of fresh spikes of contagion. Elsewhere, severerestrictions still remain in place, and in others the people are awaiting aneven more virulent outbreak of the virus.
As far as theOrder and our communities and centres are concerned, the general situation is much quieter atthe moment. Most of the previously infected Brothers have now recovered, withthe exception of three, whom we expect to recover in the next few days. Buteven though they now test negative, in some cases the virus has left them inneed of care and treatment.
The same goesfor our Co-workers. Many of them have been infected, but thank God most of themare already well again, although a significant group remain ill, and sadly wehave to announce the death of one Co-worker in Colombia.
As far as theCovid-19 patients in our Centres are concerned, the numbers are also considerablyimproving. There are still several hospitals, especially in Europe, which arestill treating coronavirus patients. We have treated more than 2000 coronaviruspatients, of whom around 300 have died.
As we enterphase two in many countries, because infections and deaths from the virus havedecreased considerably, we realise that Covid-19 is not only havingrepercussion on people’s health, but is also having social, economic, spiritualand institutional repercussions. And there is a great deal of debate about theneed to lift restrictions and reopen business and restart the economy, because ifnot, the resultant economic and social crisis will be even worse.
Pope Francis tellsis that, "The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows mercifuland compassionate love" (Misericordiae Vultus, 10). In my previous letters I told you that thisis the hour of hospitality. It is the time to manifest the compassionateand merciful Christ of the Gospel among men and women (cf. The Constitutions ofthe Order, 5). It is time to reach out beyond ourselves, taking all dueprecautions, to assist those in need, victims, in this case, of the pandemic,not only to provide health care but to assist them socially, economically andspiritually. This is the way to make the Church credible and to make uscredible, as the Order and Family of St. John of God.
At theinstitutional level of the Order, we are anticipating major difficulties formany centres and facilities of the Order because of the crisis caused by thepandemic: centres that have had to close down many of their services, others whosework has had to be greatly curtailed because the patients are simply not comingto us, and for other reasons that will throw many of our facilities into crisis.We must anticipate this, and manage it in the best possible way, making advanceplans for when we have to adapt our services and resources to avoid becoming excessivelyindebted and undermine our viability. As far as possible, we must also standready to help each other within our own Provinces, as well as other moredisadvantaged Provinces and centres due to their situation and the effects ofthe pandemic. As always, we do not doubt the generosity and hospitality with allour Order’s centres and people. Thehour of hospitality has arrived, with our Hospitaller Family of St John ofGod.
As far as thesocial situation is concerned, problems of all kinds are escalating enormouslydespite the efforts of many governments to help their people: many are losingtheir jobs, others are having to wind up their companies and businesses becausethey are no longer a going concern, and very many people are beginning to runshort of the bare essentials and have go asking for food, clothing and items tomeet their basic necessities. Others can no longer afford to keep paying their rentand in all probability will lose their homes, etc. All of these are verydistressing situations that cannot leave us unaffected and insensitive. Forthis reason, and within the bounds of their possibilities, I urge each Provinceand Centre to create opportunities to show practical solidarity and to help thepeople with great social needs around you, including those who work with us inour apostolic centres. I know that many of you are already doing this, and I alsoknow that under these circumstances it is difficult to do because no one ever hasenough left over. But we have to be creative and reinvent hospitality,especially with those closest to our centres, helping them with what we can,especially with regard to basic matters, or working jointly with other entitiesthat also work for people most in need, so that no-one is left behind. I inviteyou all, especially the Brothers, to be pioneers and promoters of theseprojects, because the hour of hospitality is here... and neither must webe left behind.
Otherconsequences of the pandemic are the difficulties arising in human relations,mental health and at the spiritual and religious levels. In my previous letterI encouraged all the Spiritual and Religious Care Services to care for thisdimension on behalf of the sick, their loved ones and our Co-workers. I want torelaunch this appeal once again, and extend it, not only to SBAR nurses butalso to all the Brothers and Co-workers in the field of mental health and ingeneral to all the members of our Family of St. John of God, to be ready tolisten, accompany, attend and help all those who are suffering from anydifficulty in these dimensions of their lives, because the personal, family,social and economic consequences of this pandemic are huge and are causingenormous suffering. For the whole Order and all its members, the hour ofhospitality has arrived -- a time forus to listen, accompany and bring hope.
Caught up inthis painful situation, the Spirit of the Risen Lord continues to speak to usthrough many acts of merciful and compassionate love that are being performed everyday in our centres and throughout the world. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, towhose imminent coming at Pentecost we are looking forward, continues to be presentwithin His Church and our Order, inspiring us with new ways of showing God'smerciful and compassionate love through hospitality. What I have just indicatedare just a few examples of the things I am urging you to do in each Province,Community and Centre, because the Our Lord’s Spirit is also telling us that thisis the hour of hospitality for all of us. So what are we waiting for!
As I have saidin each of my letters, I wish once again to voice my thanks to all the Brothers,Co-workers and Volunteers who have been working since the outbreak of thepandemic with such exemplary generosity, bearing witness to the best our Institutionhas to offer: hospitality and service to the sick and needy. Saint John of Godis proud of you!
We have been lockeddown in Italy for more than two months, and of course so has the General Curia.Restrictions have now been relaxed, but some of the meetings that were plannedare not yet possible. We are holding some, like the General Definitories,virtually, which enables us to keep track of and expedite the most urgent matters.But we do not yet know when we shall be able to get back to normal, and fearthat it will take time, even though some things will gradually be unlocked. Atthe moment we have had to cancel the General Canonical Visitations planned tobe held before July, as well as all the meetings scheduled to be held in Rome.We have also been forced to postpone the Provincial Assemblies for the Amalgamationof the Provinces of Spain and Latin America, scheduled for June and July,respectively. Depending on how the pandemic evolves, we will have to seewhether the activities planned by the General Government can be carried out betweenAugust and the end of the year.
In my Easterletter this year I told you that May 1st would see the closure of the thecelebration of the Jubilee Year of St Richard Pampuri, requested by Mgr ConradoSanguineti, Bishop of Pavia, in which the Order has also been involved, and theLombardy-Veneto Province in particular. Since the coronavirus pandemic hasisolated the whole of Italy for more than two months, the Apostolic Penitentiary,at the request of the Bishop of Pavia, has granted an extension of the JubileeYear until May 1st 2021.
May I concludewith a few words of Pope Francis: "Now, while we are looking forward to aslow and arduous recovery from the pandemic, there is a danger that we willforget those who are left behind. The risk is that we may then be struck by aneven worse virus, that of selfish indifference. A virus spread by thethought that life is better if it is better for me, and that everything will befine if it is fine for me. It begins there and ends up selecting one personover another, discarding the poor, and sacrificing those left behind on thealtar of progress. The present pandemic, however, reminds us that there are nodifferences or borders between those who suffer. We are all frail, all equal,all precious. May we be profoundly shaken by what is happening all around us:the time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that isundermining the health of the entire human family!” (Homily on the 2ndSunday of Easter. Rome 19 April 2020). In other words, the hour ofhospitality has come, the hour in which we must stand together by the sideof the sick, the poor and the needy, and the vulnerable and all those who have beendiscarded by the virus of selfish indifference.
United inhospitality and prayer, I send you my fraternal best wishes.
Brother Jesús EtayoSuperior General
Rome, 28 April2020
COVID – 19 (5)
To all the Brothers and Co-workers, members of the Hospitaller Family ofSt. John of God
The coronaviruspandemic is continuing its advance and has now practically reached everywhere. Thenumber of cases increases daily, as does the number of deaths, but also, thankGod, does the number of people who have now recovered.
What is graduallychanging are the different stages in the spread of the pandemic each country. Manycountries have barely begun to be infected, or are still in the confinementphase, while other countries are now beginning to prepare for the next phase oflifting the lockdown. Certainly there are still many doubts and uncertaintiesabout what might happen in this stage of "living with the virus", becausethere are still so many things we do not yet know about it.
As for the repercussionsof covid-19 on the Order, from the information that has come to us to date, thesituation is as follows: A total of 43 Brothers have been infected, of whom, asI indicated in my previous letter, 5 have since died, 24 have already recoveredwhile 14 are still undergoing treatment but are now on the mend. Of these Brothers,eight are from the Spanish Provinces, four from the Good Shepherd Province (oneof them belongs to the Korean Province and under Formation in Canada), anotherBrother is from the French Province and the other Brother is from the Lombardy-VenetoProvince. We wish all of them a speedy recovery.
With regard to our infectedCo-workers, we do not have any accurate figures, and many of those who wereinfected some time ago have already recovered and are back at work again. However,there are at least 300 co-workers currently infected, especially from Spain,Italy and Colombia, where a few days ago we heard that some 42 co-workers inone of Bogota's centres had been infected. In Africa, we have been told of afew cases of infection at the Monrovia hospital (Liberia), but so far we havenot received any news of cases in the rest of the world where the Order ispresent.
We have lost aconsiderable number of our guests to covid-19 in some of our hospitals andcentres. And some residents in the Order's care homes have also died from thevirus, either while they were in our centres or in other hospitals where they hadbeen transferred. For all of them and their families, we offer our prayers and ourcondolences.
But the pandemic isnot only creating health problems, which are undoubtedly the most urgent toaddress. We are already seeing very clearly that as a result of this pandemic amajor economic, financial, social, psychological and spiritual crisis is alsolooming. We are deeply concerned about this situation because it is going tohave an impact on everyone, and the brunt will be borne by the most vulnerablepeople and nations.
Many are alreadyexperiencing difficulties with maintaining the centres due to the downturn in work,the approaching economic crisis and the fear of having to close down centresdue to the contagion or lack of resources. It is now necessary to manage each centretaking all these matters into account and all the necessary possible measures tobe able to maintain them. As always, we count on the generosity of the Orderand all its Provinces, but this time we must remember that we are facing aworldwide crisis and that it will be difficult to meet all the demands made onus.
Faced with thedifficult moments we are living through, and what seems to be a situation wewill have to cope with worldwide in the coming months and years, the wholeOrder and our entire Hospitaller Family of St. John of God are being urged togive of our best: Hospitality in the manner of Saint John of God. All of us, Brothersand Co-workers together, are being asked to reach out beyond ourselves toassist the sick and also the poor and vulnerable people which the pandemic isalready leaving by the wayside. We must do so by implementing every necessarypreventive measure, but our mission of Hospitality also calls us to do it, todedicate ourselves to our brothers and sisters in need, as St. John of God andmany other Brothers have done before us.
May I remind you thatwe must pay special attention to providing spiritual and religious care in ourcentres, without ever overlooking it. We must uphold the standards ofprotection, but we must give spiritual and human comfort to the sick and theirloved ones, our Co-workers and our Volunteers. Together with the army of the otherBrothers and Co-workers, you are all called to make the love of God present tothose who are suffering.
I wish once again tothank all the Brothers and Co-workers for your commitment and Hospitality at thistime, as true children of St. John of God. We must all continue preparing to furtherstep up our dedication to the sick, poor and needy people who this pandemic isleaving in its wake. The hour of hospitality is striking and we are all calledby the Lord and the Church to be in the forefront offering God's Samaritan loveto his most fragile and vulnerable children.
I am also attaching a shortdocument prepared by the Order’s General Commission on Bioethics, for which ourfirst General Councillor, Brother Joaquím Erra, is responsilble. It is areflection to help us to identify the main effects of the pandemic, and providesa few criteria along the lines of what I have just indicated in this letter anda few resources that may be helpful to everyone. I invite you to read it and tosend it to the chairpersons of the Committees or any other type of Bioethicsgroups or forums that you may have in your Provinces and Houses. I sincerely thankthe General Commission on Bioethics.
I would like to end concludeby citing a few words from the communiqué issued by the Good Shepherd Provincefor our Co-workers on April 20th. "Mission Reflection: Hospitality as aRadical Response in Meeting the Needs of Others In our last update, wereflected on the Good Shepherd value of Adaptability. Today, we reflect on theGood Shepherd value of Dignity. Our mission of hospitality is guided by “basichuman rights such as equitable access to food, security, shelter, healthcareand education” which, as our value describes, “are essential to human dignity”.Faith over Fear!: As essential as our roles are, it is understandable that wemay bring our fears and anxieties into the workplace given the currentenvironment. We are not alone. You are not alone. We will get through thistogether. It is understandable that we can bring our fears and anxieties to theworkplace, given the current environment. We're not alone. You're not alone.We'll get out of this together."
This is a wonderful wayof deploying our mission of Hospitality today: by defending the dignity of themost fragile and vulnerable people, so that they may who grow strong as aresult of this pandemic. Do not let fear take hold of us, for our faith in theRisen Lord and the Hospitality we have received according to the spirit of St.John of God, are sending us forth into the world to take love, solidarity anddignity to all those in need, in whom the Risen Christ is embodied.
United in hospitalityand prayer, especially in these days of celebrating the Week of Prayer forVocations, I send you all my fraternal best wishes.
Rome, 14 April 2020
COVID – 19 (4)
To all the Brothers and Co-workers, members of the HospitallerFamily of St. John of God
This year wehave lived through Holy Week and celebrated Easter in an unprecedented and quitedifferent way in most countries in the world because of the coronaviruspandemic. Because of lockdown imposed in certain countries, many people andalso Religious communities have had to take part in the celebrations through thetelevision or virtually. We have seen the Vatican celebrations taking place in anempty St. Peter's Basilica, in a strange atmosphere. This is how we have had to celebrateit this year and how we ushered in Easter with the joy and the hope that thelife that the Risen Christ brings us will be the last word, and will help us toovercome this time of pain, suffering and death we are now living through.
As you know,the pandemic is spreading and now reaching virtually every corner of the world,with different effects. Over the coming weeks we will learn more about how thearrival of the virus has been affecting different continents and countries.
At the presenttime, it is the United States that has the highest number of infected people andthe most deaths, followed by several countries in Europe, including Italy,Spain, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The virus has also reached LatinAmerica and Africa, where the impact is not very great at the moment, although weshall have to monitor developments in the coming weeks, as well as Asia,Australia and the Pacific.
Most people inthe world are in lockdown or isolation, waiting for the situation to be broughtunder control. At the moment only China has started lifting lockdown, leaving a few restrictions in place forreasons of prudence, since no-one knows exactly how the virus will behave.
As far as theOrder is concerned, Covid-19 is following the same patterns as we see worldwide.So far, according to the information that has been sent in to us, four Brothershave died of the coronavirus (two in Aragon, one in Andalusia and one in France).Several Brothers have become infected by the virus, most of them in Spain, onein Italy and two in France, one of whom has died. In Spain, in addition to thedeceased Brothers, twelve have already recovered and have been tested negative,while 18 are still being treated and we hope this will be confirmed in thecoming days, as well as the Brother in the Lombardy-Veneto Province and the onein France ,who are still testing positive.
As for ourCo-workers, a substantial number have been infected, mainly because a large numberof the Order’s hospitals treat patients with coronavirus. We do not have any exactdata, but from what we know there are around 300 Co-workers, mostly in Spainand Italy – as well as some in other countries, and we have heard today thefirst cases in Africa – have tested positive for coronavirus, with thecorresponding number of colleagues who have had to self-isolate. Little bylittle they are improving, recovering, and we have not heard of any deaths sinceI last reported to you.
Many patientswith Covid-19 are being treated in the Order's hospitals. A good number of themare recovering, but sadly some are alsodying, unable to beat the infection. There have also been some deaths in our CareHomes, although they are generally working well to prevent the spread of contagion.
Today I wouldlike particularly to mention the Care Homes, the Mental Health Centres, Centresand facilities for people with disabilities, the homeless, migrants and the excluded.As you know, they are at special risk, and extreme measures have to be adoptedto prevent contagion, in order to avoid even worse problems from arising. Wemust listen to the experts and complywith the instructions that have been issued. But all new admissions must now beallocated to separate areas in the Centres according to whether they areinfected or not, avoiding at all costs any new sources of contagion.
I would like tothank the Latin America region for coordinating and helping all the Provinces and Delegations to align their criteriaand standards with the appropriate standards in every respect. Similarly, severalweeks ago a Crisis Unit for Africa was put in place, coordinated by the JuanCiudad Foundation, with the participation of various entities of the Order inEurope (Ireland, the Netherlands and Italy), the Province of St. Augustine, andthe General Curia’s Missions and International Cooperation Office, mainly inorder to advise and assist the Houses of the two African Provinces,establishing the protocols to be followed, finding out their needs and providingsome resources to be able to purchase the necessary PPE in an initial phase.This group is at work all the time and depending on how the virus proceeds, it willsee how to continue to help the Houses in Africa.
I would notlike to conclude this communication without thanking, once again, all theBrothers and Co-workers who are hard at work to the verge of exhaustion overthe course of these days, assisting the sick and the guests in our Centres andtheir loved ones, in the fight against this pandemic. In some places, the conditionsappear to be improving a little, but we are aware that they are still very difficultand sometimes precarious. Thank you all on behalf of the entire HospitallerFamily of St. John of God.
At the CuriaGeneral we are also practically in isolation. Many activities and meetings scheduledfor this period have therefore had to be suspended. Some things can be donevirtually, but others cannot. We have no idea how long this situation willlast. But once it is over, we will have to reschedule everything that cannot bedone now. You will of course be told in due course.
I thank theProvincial Superiors for the information they are sending us and I urge you to keepit up, to be able to ensure that we always have the most up-to-date data possible.
The situationis still very difficult and we do not know how long it will continue. In manyplaces we are still isolated, and life is still very hard. At this Eastertide,let us continue to place our trust in the Risen Christ, who continues to tellus that at this time of coronavirus, hospitality is always the most appropriateand effective response we can make when faced by suffering and death. I urgeall the Brothers and Co-workers to continue to bear witness to the hospitalityof Saint John of God, for the good of the sick and needy, and of the Church andthe world.
Let uscontinue to pray for one another and for the world, especially rememberingthose who are suffering most severely from this pandemic. Let us commit ourBrothers, Co-workers and family members who have already died, and those whoare still suffering from this disease, to our Risen Lord.
With myfraternal best wishes,
Brother Jesús Etayo
Rome, 30 March 2020
COVID – 19 (3)
To all the Brothers and Co-workers, Members of the Hospitaller Family ofSt John of God
Dear all, I am writingto you once again to feel the closeness of our whole Family and to brief you onthe situation in the Houses of the Order in relation to the Covid-19 pandemicthat is still spreading and is now rife in almost every country in the world.
We are learning daily fromthe media how the pandemic is affecting the world. According to today’s figures,over seven hundred thousand people have the disease, thirty-four thousand havedied and one hundred and forty-nine thousand have recovered worldwide. TheUnited States has the largest number of cases so far, but Europe, especiallyItaly and Spain followed by France, Germany and other countries, is where thepandemic is spreading most with the highest death toll. Unfortunately, thevirus is increasingly spreading to every continent, as I mentioned last week, makingit necessary to enforce highly restrictive preventive measures in most parts ofthe world. At the moment, China is the only country in which the virus seems tobe slowing down and some restrictions are being lifted. This situation iscreating a huge health crisis, whose magnitude we cannot even guess as yet, notto mention a massive economic, financial and social crisis.
As for the Order’s Centresand Houses, according to the reports we have been sent so far, the mostworrying situation is still in Italy and Spain, although, as I said before,virtually all the countries in which the Order is present have Covid-19 cases,and the necessary action is being taken, at least so we trust.
No Brothers have been infectedin any House of the Order except in Italy where we have one Brother who hastested positive for coronavirus, and in Spain where we have 14 Brothers whohave also tested positive. Most of them have now been isolated in theirCommunities and some admitted to hospital for treatment.
With regard to ourCo-workers, although we do not have accurate information from every Province, Ican tell you that at least around 280 have tested positive for coronavirus.This is causing alarm in some Centres because of the staff shortages, because inmany instances, every Co-worker who has been in contact with a patient who hastested positive is having to be quarantined.
As for deaths fromCovid-19 in our Houses, some patients have died, especially in certain hospitalsthat have been asked by the authorities to treat coronavirus patients. With regardto the Brothers, two Brothers have died, one was 97 years old, as I reportedlast week, while the other was 88. None of the Brothers who died during theprevious week had been suffering from the virus, and only one Co-worker inItaly has died while he was on leave.
Once again, I wouldlike to thank all the Brothers and Co-workers who are doing their utmost toassist the sick and their families to combat this pandemic. We also know thatyou are doing so under very difficult conditions, especially in the most badly affectedcountries, due to a lack of materials and the fact that the number of patientshas now reached saturation point. I cannot thank you enough, and I know that StJohn of God is sustaining you and accompanying you by his presence and hisintercession.
Last Friday, March 27,Pope Francis stood virtually alone in St Peter's Square in the Vatican, wherehe imparted the Urbi et Orbe blessing for the occasion of this pandemic.During the prayer and after reading a text from St Mark’s Gospel, he spoke afew deeply meaningful words, so full of enlightenment. I would just like torecall a few paragraphs for our whole Family of St. John of God:
“The storm exposes ourvulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around whichwe have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits andpriorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the verythings that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities.
“Why are you afraid?Have you no faith?” Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation.We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, likeancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of ourlives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like thedisciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be noshipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everythingthat happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms,because with God life never dies.
Embracing his Crossmeans finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time,abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order tomake room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. Itmeans finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize thatthey are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity andsolidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope andlet it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helpingus protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope:that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.
“Why are you afraid?Have you no faith”? Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells ofPeter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you tothe Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Starof the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world,may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may youbless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You askus not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord,will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid”(Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, foryou care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).
I also thank theProvincial Superiors for the information you are sending us, and I urge you tocontinue doing so.
The situation remainsfraught and we have no idea how long it will last. Let us not be afraid, asPope Francis tells us, but let us nurture our faith and our hope in the Lord, andplace the best best of ourselves at the service of the sick and needy, offeringhospitality, as our Brothers have always done, and as our Founder, St Johnof God, has taught us to do. Let us help one another, in our Houses, and betweenthe Houses in the Provinces, and between the Provinces belonging to eachRegion. No individual solution to this problem is possible, and we must all seekit together, collaborating and placing what we have at the service of others.It is also time to fight this pandemic by networking. Let no-one keep anythingback when faced with the needs of others.
Let us all continue topray for each other and all for the world, especially for those who aresuffering the most from this pandemic. Let us remember our Brothers, Co-workersand their loved ones who have already died, and all those who are suffering atthe present time, and entrust them into Our Lord’s hands.
Rome 23 March2020
COVID – 19 (2)
To all the Brothersand Co-workers, members of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God
It has been a week sinceI last wrote to you, and now I would like to update you on the situation in theOrder’s Houses regarding the coronaviruspandemic, which is continuing to spread and increasingly affect more countriesaround the world.
You already know fromthe media how it is spreading to more places and affecting more people. Theepicentre at the moment is still Europe, where virtually every country is affectedand has adopted increasingly restrictive measures. Italy and Spain, followed byFrance, Germany and the United Kingdom, are the countries with the largestnumber of sick and the highest death toll, especially the first two countrieswhere the sick and the dead are reaching absolutely unforeseeable numbers, and whatis worse, no-one can be certain when they will begin falling and be broughtunder control. In some places, the health care systems have reached breakingpoint, making everything more difficult.
Outside Europe, the casesare on the increase in the United States and also in Canada, and almost all theLatin American and Caribbean countries are introducing tough preventivemeasures because they are now having to deal with a few outbreaks there.
In Asia, the numbersseem to be being brought under control in China and even South Korea, although theyare still imposing very restrictive measures. Elsewhere in Asia, Australia andthe Pacific, restrictive measures have also been introduced because the virus hasalso reached them.
This pandemic is also unfortunatelyreaching Africa, and appeals are being made for restrictive measures to beimposed in every country to prevent the spread, because of the additional difficultiesthat may arise. Many countries have already taken action, and we hope that theycan contain it.
As for the Centres andHouses of the Order, according to the information that has been sent to us sofar, I can tell you the following:No Brothers or Co-workershave been infected in the Houses of the Order, except for the following:
Italy: For the moment no Brothers have been infected, but afew Co-workers in the Lombardy-Veneto and in Tiber Island Hospital have fallensick. At the moment, the biggest worry is in Northern Italy, where the healthservices are reaching breaking point. Our House at Erba has been hit the mostseverely, while the situation is better elsewhere.
Spain: This is where we are most seriously affected.For the moment, one 97-year-old Brother has died of Coronavirus and 9 Brothersof the three Provinces and one Sister who serves in one of our Centres have alsobeen infected, but at the moment they are well and do not need to be admittedto hospital, and several are asymptomatic. Among our Co-workers, around 100have tested positive for Covid-19. Madrid remains the most critical place,followed by Catalonia and the Basque Country. Our Centres are working very hardin coordination with the Authorities, and several Centres are treatingcoronavirus patients.
Austria: The situation is under better controlthan in the other two countries, but at 19 March at least six Co-workers hadbeen infected.
It should also beborne in mind that the infected Brothers and Collaborators have also made itnecessary for a significant number of other people to be placed in quarantineor isolation.
On behalf of the whole Order, I would like to thank all the Brothers andCo-workers who are doing their very best to assist the sick and their familiesin fighting this pandemic. We are very proud of you, because once again you aremaking the charism and mission of Hospitality shine bright, beyond any speechesand words: with your commitment, often pushed to extremes, with your smile whenyou do not feel like smiling, with your continued search for resources, as goodSamaritans, as new John of Gods, increasing in number for the sake of thesuffering, the fearful, terrified elderly people and apprehensive young men andwomen. For the sick, you are the Archangel Raphael bringing them comfort, thelove of God, tenderness and humanity. We thank you for all this. And this iswhy you deserve all the applause and praise that people are givingprofessionals in many countries and you also show us that our Lord does notforget us and that we therefore have good grounds for hope and trust that thisbattle will be won.
Some countries are still free of the virus, or it has affected them verylittle. I urge all of you, Brothers and Co-workers,if you have not already done so, to put in place all the necessary preventivemeasures in the Centres and in the Communities. This pandemic is getting morevirulent than anyone imagined, and we still have no idea how far it is going todevelop. Please take all the the measures suggested by the authorities andthose who, drawing on their own past experience, know how necessary they are. Iam especially thinking of the countries in Africa, which have experiencedEbola. Get going, and adopt every measure and protocol, learning from thatbitter experience.
We are continuing through Lent as we approach Easter. Let us live throughthis liturgical season with all the pain and sadness of the suffering which thepandemic is bringing with it, but with hope in the Lord of Life and with theconfidence that, with our Lord’s help, we shall overcome.
I continue to ask the Provincials and Local Superiors to adopt all thenecessary measures in the Provinces and in each Community to avoid contagion, avoidingany Community meetings of any kind if necessary.
I thank the Provincial Superiors for the information you are sending uson how this pandemic is affecting each Province. Please continue to report backto us so that we can keep the whole Order informed, and above all, so that wecan be closer to you.
These are harrowing times for all, and things even seem to be gettingworse. With all due precautions and in compliance with all the rules and standards,taking care of ourselves as we should, it is also the time for Hospitality, formaking ourselves available, for setting an example, as our Religious forebearshave done. Of them I would like especially to recall St John Grande, who in1600 died in Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) after catching the plague, taking hospitalityto its most extreme lengths, just as our Brothers did when they recently died asa result of Ebola.
Let us all prayfor each other and all for the world, especially for those who are sufferingthe most from this pandemic.
I send you all my verybest wishes, trusting that you are in the best of health, to brief you on withthe situation that is creating the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly in theHouses of the Order.
As you know, thispandemic started in China, and we received the first news of it at the end ofDecember last year. But it then spread very rapidly to other countries, such asSouth Korea and Iran and then to Europe, which they are now calling the epicentreof the pandemic. But, albeit to a much lesser degree, it is gradually spreadingto other countries in Oceania, America and Africa. You can follow thedevelopments in the media. The pandemic is already causing significant numbersof people to become infected and die.
As far as theOrder is concerned, from what we know today, the situation is as follows,
China: None of the Brothers in our only Communityin Yanji have been affected. However, we have not heard any news for quite afew days from Brother Joseph Han, a Chinese scholastic, who was locked down inBeijing in the first few days of February. The Superior of Yanji is doing hisbest to contact him, but so far with no success.
South Korea: The pandemic has produced a significantnumber of cases, but not among any of the Brothers, and from what we have beentold, neither have any of our Co-workers been affected.
Italy: The situation here is very complicated.At the moment, no Brothers have been affected, but some of our Co-workers havefallen ill, as well some guests in some of our Centres. The situation is verydifficult especially in Northern Italy, which means the Lombardy-VenetoProvince, and there is a risk that the healthcare system may prove unable tocope. For the time being, in Rome and in the Rome Province, and in Central and SouthernItaly, things are somewhat better, although a significant increase in cases isexpected in the next few days. The government has appealed to everyone to stayat home. At the Curia General we are all well, and virtually all our Co-workersare now working from home. Likewise, many other Co-workers in our Centres areable to work from home, either because of the type of work they do, or becausethey are in statutory lockdown.
Spain: The situation has become more complicatedin the past few days and is on track to follow what has occurred in Italy. Atthe moment, there is one Brother from the Ciempozuelos Community who has testedpositive, but is well, and is following the medical protocols. But a goodnumber of Co-workers have been affected or have self-quarantined, especially insome Centres in Madrid and Barcelona, two of the most contagious hotspots inSpain.
Othercountries in Europe: The contagion is spreading unevenly, but in virtually every country itis rising, especially in Germany, France and the United Kingdom. At the momentwe have no news of anyone affected in the Houses of the Order.
United States and Canada: We have no news of anyone affected in the Houses of Order.
Oceania: We have nonews of anyone affected in the Houses of the Order.
Latin America and the Caribbean: We have no news of anyone affected in the Houses ofthe Order.
Africa: We have no newsof anyone affected in the Houses of the Order.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region: We have no news of anyone affected in the Houses ofthe Order.
This is all theinformation about the Coronavirus pandemic that we can give you at thisdifficult time. As with every pandemic, the figures are very provisional and liableto change very quickly. I urge you all to comply strictly with all the rulesand protocols laid down in every country to protect everyone from the virus.
I also ask all theProvincial Superiors, where they deem it appropriate and necessary, to issueclear instructions to the Houses and the Brothers and Communities, to prevent thecontagion from spreading in both directions: to avoid being infected and infectingothers. This could mean relieving the Brothers of certain activities, such asholding community and other meetings. In large Communities, the Brothers may onlybe dispensed from attending community prayers and celebrating the Eucharist incommon where it is necessary.
These are verydifficult times, at least in the places where the pandemic is doing its worst. AsBrothers of St. John of God, our Centres must be available and prepared as wellas possible to help and to work with society to combat this pandemic. Brotherswho are unable to care for others personally must intensify their personal andif possible community prayer, praying that Our Lord will protect the sick andthe dying, through the intercession of St. John of God, and for all thehealthcare and other professionals who are tirelessly working to care for thesick.
I ask all of you,Brothers and Co-workers, to take good care of yourselves by following the instructionsin each case. This applies especially to the older Brothers and those at risk,especially in the worst affected regions. You must remain indoors and followthe directions of your Superiors, even when this may be irksome.
I ask all the ProvincialSuperiors to keep us regularly briefed on the situation in their Provinces toacquaint us with the state of the Order in this pandemic and enable us toreport back to the whole Order.
These are hard timesfor the whole world, but they are also occasions to bring out what we do best:showing hospitality, generosity, collaboration and dedication. Above all, livingthrough them by showing concern, but also with faith and hope in Our Lord. He issharing our suffering, and on Him we must pin all our trust and our hope, sothat we can overcome these moments, which the experts unfortunately predictwill continue for some time to come.
Let us pray for eachother and for the whole world, especially for those who are suffering most acutelyfrom this pandemic.
With my fraternal bestwishes.
Brother Jesús Etayo
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