Bishop Phalana Warns: Lockdown is Addictive
Lockdown “is addictive”, a bishop has warned as he called for the judicious opening of churches for Masses, in compliance with government regulations.
Churches and other religious structures have been allowed by government to reopen for worship under stringent regulations since early June. These include limitations on congregations, social distancing, screening, registration, compulsory wearing of facemasks, and a rigorous sanitisation regime.
Most dioceses in South Africa have not reopened for Masses, or only under restrictions exceeding those prescribed by the government.
Some churches have experimented with innovations such as drive-in Masses, or the celebration of the Eucharist outdoors.
One parish that adopted the latter option is Immaculate Heart of Mary church in Stilfontein, Klerksdorp diocese.
Bishop Victor Phalana of Klerksdorp hailed the parish for “being innovative while most of our parishes in South Africa are still under lockdown”.
The bishop said he is grateful to “some of our brave and courageous pastors who have tried their best to comply with our rigorous government protocols to render services to the People of God”.
He warned that “lockdown is addictive”, adding that “you take one bite, you will never want to go back to normal”.
“We can only do our best to minimise the spread of the virus, but none of us can live as if we are not affected by this pandemic. It is here up to, at least, 2021. When will it ever be safe to open?” he wrote on his Facebook @bishopvictorphalana.
Calling for churches to open while following the prescribed health and safety regulations, the bishop proposed: “Why don’t you use Holy Mass as an intercession against Covid-19? Why don’t you use the parish Eucharist, under lockdown restrictions, to pray for a vaccine, a cure, protection for our people and strength for those in the frontlines, the poor and the sick?”
Bishop Phalana said that “lockdown supports laziness and self-preservation. Yet, we are a Church that is well-known for the spirit of self-sacrifice, self-giving and ‘calculated risks’ to save the souls of the faithful.”
Therefore “innovative ways of ministering to the flock of God in the midst of a pandemic” must be found now—“not after the pandemic”, he wrote.
“It might take the lives of some priests and bishops, but that will be a true sign of a relevant Church, committed to its mission of evangelisation in the midst of a storm called coronavirus. We must either submit to corona or choose, like the martyrs of old, who ministered during persecutions, to do our sacred duties during this dark period of disease and death,” Bishop Phalana said.
“I invite you to continue to live and support our priests and deacons. I am grateful to our priests and deacons who have come to collect PPEs,” he said.
“Make your parish a safe place for worship through fumigation, disinfection, sanitisation, screening, social distancing, a limited number of worshippers—50 or less—and the use of masks. Pray. Hope and trust the Lord. He says, ‘I am with you always’! Pray for our pastors who are at high risk. May the Lord protect them. Be blessed,” Bishop Phalana wrote, also offering his prayers for the sick.
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