Southern Africa Bishops Express “closeness, support” to All amid COVID-19, Pemba Crisis

St. Paul's Cathedral, Pemba Diocese in Mozambique.
Credit: Public Domain

The leadership of the nine-nation Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) has, in a statement, expressed solidarity with the people of God in the region amid the COVID-19 challenges and the prevailing crisis in Mozambique’s Northern Province of Cabo Delgado, an area within the Diocese of Pemba. 

In the Wednesday, September 9 statement signed by IMBISA’s President Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula of Mozambique’s Xai-Xai Diocese, the Standing Committee members assure the people of God in the nine countries of their “closeness, support and encouragement” amid the challenges.

They say that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused “deep spiritual, social, psychological, economic and medical damage to many of our people.” 

“Eucharistic celebrations have had to be cancelled or at least attended by a few, catechism lessons suspended, attendance at funerals limited and a reduced physical contact between the Church’s ministers and the faithful,” Bishops at the helm of IMBISA say.

They add, “The protocols concerning COVID-19 have meant that many schools, places of work and other facilities for the development of persons have remained closed.”

As a result of COVID-19 restrictions, members of the Bishop Lucio-led Committee say, the mental health of many people has been affected and “increased the incidence of many forms of domestic violence. The disruption to economic activity has caused the loss of livelihoods which in turn may lead to loss of lives caused by hunger and other social problems.” 

The Bishops add, “All the countries in IMBISA, already struggling economically, remain with very poor medical infrastructure. This means that even as life is threatened, there is very little help on the horizon in terms of proper medical care.”

Amid the challenges brought by the coronavirus, the leadership of IMBISA invites the people of God in the nine countries of Angola, Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, and Zimbabwe to continue praying for an end to the pandemic.

“Prayers for all involved in health care are certainly in order without forgetting governments as they are daily being called upon to make difficult decisions avoiding the temptation of corruption,” IMBISA’s Standing Committee members say.

The Bishops also encourage members of the Clergy in their respective countries to “devise new ways and means of ministering spiritually and otherwise to peoples everywhere.” 

In the September 9 statement, IMBISA leaders have also expressed their concerns about the prevailing violence in Mozambique’s Province of Cabo Delgado within the Catholic Diocese of Pemba.

“The violence, loss of life and the reality of displaced persons currently unfolding in the Province of Cabo Delgado in the North of Mozambique concerns us deeply,” they say and add, “The people live in fear, not just of COVID-19, but the violence that is frequently visited upon them,” the Prelates lament in their September 9 statement.

Drawing inspiration from Pope Francis who recently expressed his solidarity with the Local Ordinary of Pemba in a phone call, the IMBISA leaders say they “express our closeness and support to Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of Pemba Diocese, Mozambique, and the people of Cabo Delgado.”

“We invite you to pray that efforts for peace may yield the desired fruits in that beautiful land,” they further say and add, “Recalling the motto of last year’s Papal visit to Mozambique, ‘Hope, Reconciliation and Peace’, we request you to pray unceasingly that peace may become a reality in Cabo Delgado Province.” 

The Bishops also make reference to the recent meeting between Mozambique’s Head of State and the Bishop of Pemba saying, “Signs of hope in this direction are already present, which is most encouraging, as witnessed by the meeting of President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique and Bishop Luiz.”

“May these efforts at making peace bear fruit, fruit that will last so that whatever we ask in the name of Jesus, the Father will grant it,” members of IMBISA Standing Committee conclude, citing the Gospel according to John.


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