RELIGION: Latino Catholics are the most vaccine-aware religious group. Here are the reasons.

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News


(RNS) — Throughout the different stages of the pandemic, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mecca — a largely Latino migrant town in Southern California’s Coachella Valley — distributed face masks and food, hosted COVID-19 tests and advocated for the vaccine as soon as it became available.

The Rev. Francisco Valdovinos, who pastored the church, died of COVID-19 in January. His legacy has helped ignite a consciousness around public health and COVID-19 prevention among farmworkers and others. He made the church a central site of pandemic assistance, and many recall him as “his life for his people “.

RELATED: In Coachella Valley migrant community, the COVID-19 death of a beloved priest helps spur vaccinations

To Luz Galegos, executive director of TODEC Legal Center in Southern California’s Inland Empire, was instrumental in helping her organisation dispel misinformation, increase vaccine access, and collaborate with community leaders.

Gallegos views priests like Valdovinos and others as organizers who “have died exposing their lives for their community.” Her uncle, a Catholic priest, died from the virus . She said that Latinos are so big on faith but that faith isn’t going to bring about miracles .

” If we don’t take action and get the vaccine, miracles won’t just happen,” stated Gallegos, a Catholic.

When looking at the major religion groups in the United States, Latino Catholics rank among the most vaccined.

Luz Gallegos, left, executive director of TODEC Legal Center, holds a vaccine information workshop for agricultural workers March 18, 2021, in Thermal, California. RNS photo by Alejandra Molina

The Pew Research Center found that 82% of Catholic adults said they were at least partially vaccinated as of August — data that included 86% of Latino Catholics and 79% of white Catholics.

Among Protestants, 73% of white nonevangelicals and 70% of those who are Black said they had received at least a dose, but the share was much lower among white evangelical Protestants (57%), the Pew study found.

Similarly, Latino Protestants also fell short of the vaccination rates among Latino Catholics — 67% of Latino Protestants said they had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 32% said they had not been vaccinated.

Jonathan Calvillo is a professor of sociology at Boston University. He believes that Catholic social teaching provides a “important theological foundation for Latino Catholics to address the pandemic in a matter which is affecting the most vulnerable .”

Calvillo points to a document leading up to the first-ever Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean in Mexico City, where Catholics will discuss the future of the church in those regions. The document lists the experiences of COVID-19 under the commitment of the church to social justice.

” Calvillo stated that even though the section does not discuss the vaccine, it highlights the ways in which the pandemic has revealed inequality in our societies.”

” This approach points to an important foundation that Latinx Roman Catholics can understand vaccine distribution as a social injustice issue,” Calvillo said.

Latinos in the U.S. have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and along with Black Americans, have been less likely overall than white Americans to have received the vaccine. But recent data show these disparities have been narrowing over time, particularly for Latinos, and even more so for Latino Catholics who have been urged by their leaders to get vaccinated to “protect the most vulnerable.”

While Latino Protestants have lagged behind their Catholic counterparts in vaccine acceptance — in March they had the highest rate of vaccine hesitancy among religious groups at 42% — the group underwent a marked shift between March and June, with only 26% reporting vaccine hesitancy.

Photo by Marisol Benitez/Unsplash/Creative Commons

The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, partnered with the Ad Council in a public service announcement for faith leaders in Spanish to dispel vaccine myths among Latino evangelicals, many who, Salguero said, carry an “apocalyptic” view and who see the vaccine as the “mark of the beast or sign of the times.”

In East Los Angeles the Rev.

In East Los Angeles, the Rev.

A small number of his congregants oppose the vaccine, but Rincon stated that they are still connected to an evangelical world with other voices. “… They’re resisting because they believe this is something that the government is imposing.

“When I go to other churches, there’s a greater resistance,” said Rincon, whose church has partnered with the county to host COVID-19 testing. “There are churches that strongly oppose getting vaccinated. Those are the people who are influencing some members of our church

RELATED: The pandemic has helped religion’s reputation. Are religious vaccine resisters putting this progress at risk

Meanwhile, Catholic leaders too have been working to dispel vaccine hesitancy — particularly initial concerns over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s use of cells with distant ties to abortion “in development and production” — and have referred to the vaccine as “pro-life” and a social justice issue.

In August, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, calling it “an act of love” in a public service announcement aimed at a global audience.

In Francis’ video message, other prelates were present, including Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico City, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa (Honduras) and Cardinal Gregorio Rose Chavez of San Salvador (El Salvador).

“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19. They can bring hope to the end the pandemic but only if they’re available to everyone and if we work together,” Francis stated in the Spanish advertisement with English subtitles.

A Catholic priest receives the first of the two Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccinations Dec. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Rev. Austin Doran, pastor at St. Anthony Catholic Church in San Gabriel, California, has praised “the leadership of Catholic Church, starting from the pope.” He also appreciated Gomez’s participation in the public ad alongside Francis.

Doran witnessed firsthand the virus’ infiltration into the homes of his parishioners. Many of them were Spanish-speaking essential workers who lived in small apartments or shared houses with their families. After contracting the virus, he witnessed relatives of parishioners, church volunteers, and staff go to their graves.

When the vaccine became available, Doran and other religious leaders and organizers urged county officials to bring the medicine to residents who were eligible for the vaccine, but who didn’t have access to it. They suggested that their churches could be used as vaccination sites.

” I think those efforts have been fruitful,” Doran stated

The Rev. Manuel Cardoza, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Community, San Bernardino (California), said that there is a common understanding among Catholics as well as Latinos that they are not only looking out for themselves .”

Cardoza is a strong supporter of the vaccine in his parish. Cardoza has written letters to his parishioners detailing the deaths from the pandemic, and how the vaccine can be used to end them. He participated in a public service announcement about the vaccine.

Cardoza also documented the day he got vaccinated, similar to when Bishop Gerald Barnes and Bishop Alberto Rojas, of the Diocese of San Bernardino, got their pictures taken when they received their dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a Catholic hospital.

” We generally view things as a group, as a whole,” Cardoza stated. “What happens to one person can also happen to all others. This doesn’t just apply to the church congregation, it also applies to the entire community. It’s part Hispanic culture .

Cardoza acknowledges that there have been concerns about vaccines among some parishioners, especially regarding the symptoms. He said that a major concern among Latino Catholics has been the question of whether the vaccine is linked to abortion. Cardoza said he tells parishioners that “the whole hierarchy in the Catholic Church is essentially pretty much 100% on board with getting vaccinated and in no way do we say we’re in support of abortion.”

Cardoza said: “There is a lot of nonconspiracy theories information that you can read and you can see how effective the vaccine is.”

” I have personally told the community that if government closes down churches again, and if we are unable to go back to work again, or if we are unable to go to ministry again again, it is not their fault. Cardoza stated.

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