LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Catholics need to keep the poor, vulnerable and isolated at the “forefront of our minds” during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, according the head of England’s Caritas Social Action Network.

Britain went into lockdown on Monday evening in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. As of Wednesday, there were 9,500 confirmed cases in the country, with 465 fatalities.

The crisis has also led to the curtailment of several charitable services, including day centers, soup kitchens, and food banks.

Bishop Terence Drainey of Middlesbrough, the chair of the Caritas Social Action Network, said “these are difficult times,” explaining the coronavirus outbreak has put great strain on Catholic charities.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the bishop addressed how people can reach out ot the poor, vulnerable, and those “excluded from society in some way.”

“Firstly, our common humanity helps us recognize that our actions, and our care for neighbors, are particularly important in the face of a pandemic. Can we be sure to contact people who are isolated, offering to shop for those who cannot manage for themselves? Are we phoning friends and neighbors to make sure that they do not feel forgotten?” Drainey asked.

He also encouraged everyone in England and Wales to support local charities, including Caritas Social Action, which he noted are facing increased costs, fewer volunteers and a potential loss of income.

According to the National Council for Voluntary Organizations, the charity sector is expected to lose £4.3 billion ($5.1 billion) in income in the next 12 weeks. Last week, the UK government announced a guaranteed loan scheme for small and medium-sized businesses affected by coronavirus pandemic, which also applies to registered charities.

In his statement, Drainey said “more than ever we rely on charities’ staff and volunteers to protect the most vulnerable in our society.”

“I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude and appreciation to all who have committed their time and service to charitable activities locally and nationally, and particularly to organizations in the Caritas network in England and Wales,” the bishop added. “Their dedication all year round is an example to Catholics of how we can put our faith into action and live as missionary disciples.”

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome

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