Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carreraand the Swine Flu

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City prayed to Our Lady of Guadalupe and canceled Masses in the archdiocese April 26 due to an outbreak of swine flu.

The decision to cancel Masses followed instructions from the local health secretariat that all large gatherings be canceled as authorities raced to contain an epidemic that threatened to spread well beyond Mexico. By midday April 27, more than 100 Mexicans had died and more than 1,000 were sick in the Mexican capital. The United States had confirmed 40 cases in five states, and six cases had been confirmed in two Canadian provinces.

Cardinal Rivera celebrated Mass April 26 behind closed doors in the Metropolitan Cathedral for about 50 people who had been permitted to enter.

In his homily, he called on the Mexican population to never lose hope and to mutually assist each another during the crisis. He also prayed to Our Lady of Guadalupe for intervention, noting that she had helped during pandemics four times since 1554.

"We beg for your protection and help for quickly overcoming the epidemic that has affected our nation," Cardinal Rivera prayed. "Cover us with your cloak; free us from this evil."

Later in the day, an image of Christ on the cross -- known as the "Lord of Health" -- was removed from its spot in the cathedral for the first time since 1850 and carried in a procession around central Mexico City. The "Cristo," as the image is known, has been credited with past miracles, including intervention in an 1850 cholera outbreak.

Much of the swine flu attention has been focused on Mexico City, but the disease has also claimed 10 lives in the north-central state of San Luis Potosi. In Mexico City, as the disease spread, face masks were common, traffic was light and many businesses stayed closed. The swine flu forced the closure of schools and universities throughout the country and even nightclubs in beach areas such as Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco.

New York City's 28 cases all were related to St. Francis Preparatory School, which closed April 27 and 28 and canceled all student activities "because of the number of students with flulike symptoms," the school said on its Web site.

"The New York City Health Department is working closely with your school's administration to ensure that measures are in place to provide you with up-to-date information on how to protect yourself from infection," the department said in a note to students distributed by the school.

"So far, all infections with swine influenza in the United States have been mild and all the people who got sick have recovered or are recovering," the note added.

With approximately 2,750 students, St. Francis Prep, located in the borough of Queens, describes itself as the largest private Catholic secondary school in the United States. (From the Catholic News Service)

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