Faith Leaders in South Africa’s Western Cape Designate “solidarity time” with Bereaved

Bishop Sylvester David, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, South Africa.

Faith leaders in South Africa’s Western Cape (WC) Province have designated midday Wednesday of every week as a moment for the people of God in the Ecclesiastical region to show their solidarity with those who have lost their loved ones during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision follows a meeting between faith leaders and government officials in the Province, which covers coasts bordering the Indian and Atlantic oceans and that fall under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Town.

“Faith Based Leaders took a decision to show solidarity with all who have lost lives or loved ones during the pandemic. Wednesdays at 12:00 was the time chosen,” the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, Sylvester David has said in a statement signed July 17 and circulated Monday, July 20.

“All Catholics are requested to either light a candle or to observe a minute of prayerful silence. This could also be an opportunity to go back to the tradition of praying the Angelus,” Bishop David further said and in reference to the part of the Angelus prayer “And the word became flesh,” added that this “reminds us that Christ joined suffering humanity.”

The statement comes at a time when South Africa’s WC government has made it  “illegal to have the body in the Church during funerals – irrespective of whether it is a COVID-19 death or not,” the Bishop notes in the one-page letter.


Referencing the WC government’s guidelines issued July 17, the member of Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) also notes that during requiem Mass, “the hearse could be parked on the Church property with the body inside while the funeral service takes place inside the Church.”

The final commendation, he adds, could take place at the hearse while paying attention to all the safety protocols.

“We appeal to all concerned to look at this with understanding as the situation does not change on a daily basis, it changes on an hourly basis and the safety of persons is paramount,” the 67-year-old Prelate has urged in the July 17 statement.

On Sunday, July 20, the Southern African nation was reported to be the “fifth worst-affected” country globally by COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected at least 364,000 people and claimed 5,033 lives. At least 191,000 people have recovered.

Through the July 17 statement, the Bishop has urged Priests to inform parishioners “from low income households who need to develop some degree of self-sustainability” to collect seeds for their gardens from the local government’s Department of Labor.

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“Parish Priests can also have people in need registered as indigents at Municipal offices and seek assistance for the One Home One Garden Project,” Bishop David has said in the letter and added, “Municipal water may not be used for this project & explanations will be given on how to make gardening viable under these conditions.”

The meeting between the faith leaders and government officials follows a resolve by the WC authorities to keep faith-based organizations and religious leaders informed of the COVID-19 government interventions and communication messages to fight the pandemic in the province.

“Religious leaders and faith-based organizations play an important role in society and we will establish a digital Covid-19 platform for spiritual leaders to access relevant information on the pandemic. We are also welcoming suggestions and ideas from our religious leaders in the fight of COVID-19 in the Western Cape,” the faith leaders of the Province said May 4.

Following the first meeting between the faith leaders and WC government officials on April 30, the religious leaders submitted their contributions on various issues including “regulations regarding funerals under the national lockdown … and a discussion around the consideration of essential services in these unprecedented times.”

The two parties also established a faith-based secretariat to assist with “regular communication.”