Several Catholic priests have contracted the coronavirus disease in Myanmar, with at least four priests in one diocese alone dying in just a week.
At least 20 of the 54 priests in the Diocese of Kalay in the country’s Sagaing region are currently suffering from symptoms of the disease — fever, cough, and colds.
There are currently 12 priests in the diocese who are confirmed to be positive of COVID-19 while another five have already recovered, said Father Joseph Thang Nen Zo Mung, the diocese’s director for social communication.
He said that in the village of Suangpi in Tedim township, almost half of the population of 180 households are sick. The parish priest died of the disease on June 27.
Father Mung said most people in the country have no access to medical care following the February 1 military coup that caused the health system to collapse.
Health practitioners, including doctors, were either arrested for joining the “civil disobedience movement” or went into hiding.
“It is very difficult to find a doctor,” said Father Mung who was himself sick. He said some doctors would provide a list of medicine “but there is shortage of medicine” even in the cities.
On Sunday, Myanmar’s health ministry reported 2,318 new cases of COVID-19 with 35 new deaths.
In the Diocese of Pathein, the country’s largest city, Bishop John Hsane Hgyi warned the faithful against the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.
“We need to seriously take care of ourselves so that the third wave of COVID-19 may not spread,” he reminded parishioners.
He said rate of infection is rising “and the death toll has risen.” The bishop noted that people seemed to have become careless.
Last week, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon appealed for prayers for an end to the pandemic, for peace, and for healing during a “Rosary for Asia” service.
“We pray for the end to the pandemic, the end of violence and wars, poverty and hunger,” he said.
“We pray for every person in our land, whatever be their faith or religion,” said the archbishop who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.
Cardinal Bo reminded the faithful to always look to the Lord “in these troubled times” and pray for his peace “to reign in our hearts, in our leaders, in our land.”
“We are confident that when we pray with earnestness and faith for the gift of peace, he will certainly grant us his peace, ‘a peace that passeth human understanding,’ a peace that will endure,” he said.
“We pray for every person in our land, whatever be their faith or religion,” he said.
“Let us bring in prayer all the people of this vast continent, all nations and governments, all those who minister to the sick, all those who care for the poor and the marginalized,” said Cardinal Bo.
The prayer service was shared across Asia through the various social media platforms of Radio Veritas Asia’s 22 language services.