South Africa's Cardinal Seeking Spiritual Solidarity with Archbishop in ICU for COVID-19

Archbishop Abel Gabuza, Coadjutor Archbishop of Durban currently battling COVID-19 in ICU in the hospital.

The Archbishop of South Africa’s Durban Archdiocese, Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, is appealing for spiritual solidarity with Archbishop Abel Gabuza who is in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with the second strain of COVID-19.

“Please pray for the Coadjutor Archbishop of Durban, Abel Gabuza who has tested COVID-19 positive, and is in ICU,” Cardinal Napier appeals in a Tweet posted Sunday, January 10.

The Cardinal adds in reference to a new mutation of COVID-19 identified as 501.V2 variant, “As we are learning fast, this second strain can be devastating in its effects.”

The plea by Cardinal Napier has attracted a series of solidarity messages.

“I wish the Archbishop a speedy recovery. Praying for him and all those engulfed by the Corona Virus. Thanks for the update Your Eminence,” Lawrence Kewu tweeted.

Father vu tweeted January 11, “Praying for Archbishop Gabuza and for all the sick. May Lord hear our prayers and heal those who are most in need of his love and mercy.”

Christopher Walters indicates, in his Tweet, that he has already offered prayers for the Archbishop in ICU and adds, “+Gabuza was my parish priest in Lyttelton half a life time ago.”

“With the help of the Holy Spirit the Lord the giver of life he will be healed. We pray and believe,” Vicky Mekute posted in a tweet.

The hospitalization of the 65-year-old Archbishop comes at a time when Catholic Church leaders in South Africa are expressing serious concerns about the new COVID-19 variant.

The new wave of COVID-19 has claimed the lives of six Catholic Sisters from the Daughters of Saint Francis in Port Shepstone, Marianhill Diocese who succumbed “within a period of a week, from 10-17 December 2020,” the Conference of Catholic Sisters in the country reported.

“This is a very painful reminder that the scourge of COVID-19 is yet to lessen its devastation to communities and society at large,” officials of the Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life (LCCLSA) said in their December 18 statement shared with ACI Africa.

Following the death of the Sisters, LCCLSA’s leadership called on “all religious congregations and communities to be extra vigilant and cautious in light of the deadly and subtle Second Wave of the pandemic.”

“None of us is immune to this pandemic,” LCCLSA President, Sr. Nkhensani Shibambu said and added, “We remain our own best defense against the virus and the least we can do is to continue adhering to the safety protocols of COVID-19 prevention and containment.”

To protect Catholic Sisters from the pandemic, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has collaborated with the United Nations in distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to various convents across the country.

In a January 9 Facebook post, the leadership of the Commission announced that it had already distributed “truckloads of PPEs” to Catholic Sisters in the Gauteng and Free State Provinces and that plans were underway for similar deliveries to Sisters in Eastern Cape,  Western Cape and Kwazulu Natal.

The resurgence of the pandemic, which has so far infected 1.21 million people and claimed 32,824 lives saw President Cyril Ramaphosa announce, on 28 December 2020, a return to level three lockdown characterized by longer curfew hours and a 14-day ban on all gatherings including faith-based ones.

The restrictions saw some ecclesiastical jurisdictions close churches and resuspend public Liturgies and gatherings.

On 29 December 2020, the Archbishop of Pretoria Archdiocese, Dabula Anthony Mpako announced a closure of all churches for public liturgical services, a decision he said would be reviewed after the 14 days prescribed by President Ramaphosa.

On the same day, the Auxiliary Bishop of Cape Town, Sylvester David announced that public Masses, meetings and gatherings – with the exception of funerals – in his jurisdiction are “prohibited until 15th January 2021 when the State President will make a further announcement.”

In Swaziland’s Manzini Diocese, which falls under the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Johannesburg in South Africa, Bishop José Luis Ponce de León, on January 8 resuspended the celebration of public Liturgies in line with the government’s ban on all forms of gatherings following an increase in reported cases of COVID-19.


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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]