Southern African Bishops: We Will Emerge From Corona Darkness
The bishops of Southern Africa have called on those disregarding the government’s lockdown “to consider the common good that informs these restrictions”.
In a pastoral letter issued on April 13, the bishops joined Pope Francis in his Easter message, “calling for strong bonds of solidarity among us during this time”.
“Social distance in everyday life has often meant division between poor and rich, but the social distancing we are being called to now is that of mutual care and cooperation in eliminating the virus,” said the letter, signed by Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference president.
“We have come face-to-face with the singular truth that, no matter what nation or race, what class or age, what economic power or weakness—rich or poor—all of us are in this together. This truth is undeniable,” the bishops said.
“With this greater oneness comes the absolute necessity of greater solidarity. While we must regularly wash our hands to avoid the virus, let us not wash our hands of our responsibility for each other, particularly the poor who feel the impact of the lockdown the most and who will be affected by the effects of the virus the most.”
The bishops commended “the cooperation among all people in observing the directives that come with a lot of sacrificial restrictions”, and the government “in its decisive leadership and wide consultation in its response to the pandemic”.
“It is also touching to notice how individuals and organisations are trying their best to come to the rescue of those hard-hit by the pandemic,” the bishops said.
“We note the generous gesture of care by members of government to make significant and generous donations to the common good.
“We recognise, too, the generosity of business leaders, groups, sportsmen and women and other celebrities,” the bishops said.
“It is heartwarming to hear that even some gangs have declared a truce among themselves and decided to participate in distribution of food to the poor,” the letter noted.
“And so even in this hour of a fearful silence, we are witnessing the good human qualities of care and cooperation among people, and this is consoling,” the bishops said.
“We remember those infected by this disease and struggling for their lives, the healthcare workers who are at great risk of infection, those who are anxious about losing employment, the street vendors and those who survive by doing piece-jobs, as well as those sitting at home without the provision of basic needs.
“As bishops, we make a preferential option for people in such situations, not only in prayer but also to work with all concerned towards a relief of their situation, both during the lockdown and in the post-coronavirus period,” the bishops said.
The pastoral letter also offered a theological reflection of Easter in the time of the coronavirus.
The bishops noted that “when the news of Christ’s Resurrection was announced by the angel to the women followers of Jesus, it was met with disbelief as they were still in great shock about his execution”.
“They were in the total silence of fear and doubt. The silence that we observe on Holy Saturday, with no activity, is a symbolic joining with these first followers of Jesus who were mourning and confused because the one they believed was the Messiah, Jesus, had been killed,” the bishops said.
“This year our silence was also symbolic of the total silence and social isolation that has befallen the whole world because of the unexpected killer-coronavirus that has brought fear to all humanity.
“In this atmosphere of eerie silence, we would like to remind all who believe that our silence is not that of despair but of hope. While Jesus was hanging, dead and silent on the cross, his power was working,” the bishops said.
St Matthew’s Palm Sunday Passion narrative tells us when Jesus died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom”.
“The divide between God and humanity was removed and so God is not far from us during this time of fear and anxiety,” the bishops said.
“As he hung on the cross in silence and apparent defeat, the power of Christ’s love was present and operational in the women who, though from a distance, were in solidarity with Jesus and keeping watch.
“It was present and operational in the courage of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who claimed the body of Jesus and gave him a decent burial,” the bishops reflected.
After Christ’s Resurrection, “this power and courage would be characteristic of all the followers of Jesus, bringing the victory of Christ over evil to the whole world”, they said.
“In the midst of this darkness, there have been, and continue to be present, signs of final victory over the pandemic with heartwarming gestures of solidarity in dealing with the coronavirus,” the bishops said.
Please support The Southern Cross
Your support means we can keep Catholic news alive so that many others will have free access to the high-quality, trustworthy news they deserve. We seek your support not simply to survive, but to grow in our mandate to share the Good News and keep you informed about your Church and Catholic faith.
Every contribution, however big or small, makes a difference. Support us today – it only takes a minute. Thank you.