Cardinal Maradiaga, Close Papal Adviser, Hospitalized With COVID-19

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, attends the opening of the international exhibition, “100 Presepi,” (100 Nativity Scenes), at the Vatican Dec. 7, 2018 (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Inés San Martín

ROME (Crux) —Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, who leads the council of cardinals that advises Pope Francis on the reform of the Catholic Church’s central government, was hospitalized after presenting COVID-19 symptoms.

His archdiocese confirmed on Feb. 4 he had tested positive for the virus.

The Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, through spokesman Juan Angel Lopez and Father Rodolfo Varela, head of media for the local church, confirmed that the prelate had tested positive after presenting flu-like symptoms and fever.

“The cardinal has been under the weather, a bit weak, and out of prudence, he didn’t want to celebrate the Holy Eucharist [on Wednesday] and the solemn Mass of Our Lady of Suyapa,” Lopez said in a special program at Tegucigalpa’s Catholic TV channel.

Our Lady of Suyaba is the patroness of Honduras.

The 18th-century 2 1/2 inch high cedar statue of the Virgin of Suyapa is perhaps Honduras’s most popular religious image, and under normal circumstances, hundreds of thousands flock to the shrine dedicated to her in the outskirts of Tegucigalpa on Feb. 3.

“[Maradiaga] was visibly tired and with a fever,” Lopez said. “Hence, the decision was made to hospitalize him in a clinic, where all the corresponding tests were performed, and he turned to be COVID-19 positive.”

The spokesman denied reports of him being gravely ill.

Lopez said that he’d spoken with the cardinal on Thursday, the day he confirmed the prelate had the coronavirus, and Maradiaga allegedly said that he’s feeling better: “Please, tell [the people] not to make a fuss, to pray, as this is necessary at this time.”

Honduras has over 151,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and over 3,600 confirmed dead with the disease that has killed over 2.2 million people worldwide.

Maradiaga is not the first cardinal to test positive with coronavirus. Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, tested positive upon arrival in the Philippines in early September.

In late December, two Vatican cardinals tested positive: Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, 78, president of the governorate of Vatican City; and Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.

Cardinal Krajewski spent ten days in a hospital in Rome, after the Vatican’s health center found he had a mild coronavirus-related pneumonia just after Christmas, and released Jan. 1.

“It was a different Christmas,” he told Crux at the time. “But I was sitting with Jesus every day, thanks to the doctors who were bringing him to me.”

During the week of Jan. 8-14, ten bishops, including a Brazilian cardinal, died after testing positive with the coronavirus.

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