ROME – Writing from his hospital bed in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where he is being treated for the COVID-19 coronavirus, Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo voiced gratitude to all those who are praying for him, saying he is offering his illness for other patients and for peace in his country.

Ouédraogo, 75, was given a red hat by Pope Francis in 2014 and elected president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in July 2019.

After demonstrating several symptoms, he was tested for the coronavirus on March 28 and got the positive result two days later. He is currently receiving treatment at a medical clinic in Ouagadougou and is reportedly in stable condition.

Only one other cardinal, the Vicar of Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, has so far tested positive for the coronavirus.

In an April 5 statement, Ouédraogo said he is just one among thousands of other patients worldwide who are suffering due to the pandemic.

“This is not something that only happens to others,” he said, voicing thanks to all those who have written or called to express concern, some of whom have said they are praying novenas for his recovery.

“Considering these expressions of solidarity and compassion, I can only exclaim: Who am I to deserve such a great and kind attention, both physical/material and spiritual? Thank you to everyone and I employ the Lord to keep us always united with one another on such moment in life!” Ouédraogo said.

As he continues his treatment, Ouédraogo said he is offering his illness for three specific intentions: For all other patients infected with COVID-19 in other dioceses; for an end to the killing of innocent people “perpetrated by the forces of evil”; and for peace, justice and reconciliation in Burkina Faso.

For months, Burkina Faso has seen a surge of attacks by jihadists, local militias, and militants, as well as an increasing number of inter-communal attacks, making the country one of the most rapidly growing displacement crises in Africa.

Christian communities in the country, home to some of the world’s poorest populations, have been caught in the middle and are increasingly targeted by radical Islamists.

A Protestant church was attacked in Hantoukoura Dec. 1 by armed men on motorcycles, with 14 people killed. On Feb. 10 Islamic extremists targeted the northern town of Sebba, kidnapping and killing a Protestant pastor along with four members of his congregation.

On Feb. 16, 24 Catholics were killed when attackers opened fire on a prayer meeting in Pansi, forcing the closure of several schools due to the threat of terrorism.

According to the U.N., around 4,000 people were killed by armed groups in the region in 2019, and more than 950,000 people have been internally displaced due to conflict in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.

Roughly 3.3 million people in the Africa’s central Sahel region – marking the boundary between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa – are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, which is increasingly difficult to deliver as attacks continue to escalate.

In his message, Ouédraogo said he is “very privileged” to have access to good health care.

“I would like from the bottom of my heart as a pastor to cry out for support in favor of a profound impetus of solidarity, both locally, regionally and internationally for patients with Covid-19. There is an urgent need for adequate means to save the many human lives affected by the virus!”

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen