In addition to the cardinals, eight other bishops are also reportedly signatories to the letter, including the bishop of a U.S. diocese: Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.
Strickland, who was appointed Tyler’s bishop in 2012, told CNA last week that he signed the letter.
Among its claims, the letter says that “the fight against Covid-19, however serious, must not be the pretext for supporting the hidden intentions of supranational bodies that have very strong commercial and political interests” in the tracking systems used to fight the pandemic in some countries.
CNA asked Strickland to clarify which “supranational bodies” have intentions in that regard, and to clarify which “powers” aim to sow widespread social panic and restrict freedom in advance of a one-world government. The bishop did not respond by press time.
Some aspects of the letter resemble claims made in “Plandemic,” a viral video released this month that argues that the pandemic has been manipulated through NGOs, in order to profit vaccine makers, and that death rates have been exaggerated by hospitals that stand to recoup Medicare reimbursement for coronavirus-related deaths. The video’s claims have been refuted consistently by scientific experts.
The appeal also makes claims related to faith.
The letter says that an “invisible enemy” aims to use the coronavirus pandemic to “divide citizens, to separate children from their parents, grandchildren from their grandparents, the faithful from their pastors, students from teachers, and customers from vendors.”
It cautions readers not to “allow centuries of Christian civilization to be erased under the pretext of a virus, and an odious technological tyranny to be established in which nameless and faceless people can decide the fate of the world by confining us to a virtual reality."
CNA asked Strickland to clarify those aspects of the letter, but the bishop has not yet responded.
The Vatican has offered no comment on the letter, which was reportedly authored by Archbishop Carlo Vigano, a former member of the Church’s diplomatic corps, who made headlines in 2018 for a letter that alleged Vatican officials had ignored warnings about the sexual abuse of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
A Vatican official, Cardinal Robert Sarah, was initially reported to be a signatory to the letter, but the cardinal has distanced himself from the letter, and his name was removed amid a row with Vigano.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the metropolitan archbishop charged with pastoral oversight over dioceses in his region, including the Diocese of Tyler, has not answered questions from CNA regarding Strickland’s endorsement of the letter’s claims.
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A spokesperson in the Galveston-Houston archdiocese did ask CNA whether it had reached out to the U.S. bishops’ conference for comment.
The USCCB told CNA that “as a matter of general practice, the Conference doesn’t comment on our members acting in their capacity as local bishop.”
The letter comes amid increasing social division over measures implemented to slow the spread of the disease, along with numerous conspiracy theories floated about the pandemic in recent weeks.
In addition to the theories about one-world technocracies, like those contained in “Plandemic,” claims about the virus and religion have also popped up in several countries in recent weeks.
In India and the U.K., Muslims have faced targeting from theorists who claim the virus is a jihadist conspiracy. On social media message boards, anti-Semitic posters have theorized about Jewish conspiracies to spread the virus.
To date, more than 4 million people have tested positive for an infection of the novel coronavirus since early January, and nearly 300,000 have been recorded dead from the virus. In some countries, death rates in the months of the coronavirus pandemic have far exceeded death rates over the same months in previous years, suggesting to some demographers and epidemiologists that coronavirus deaths have been dramatically undercounted.