“Being vaccinated puts your neighbor’s life first, for public good”: South African Bishop

Bishop Victor Hlolo Phalana of South Africa's Klerksdorp Diocese/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

Protecting one's neighbor from sickness through getting the COVID-19 vaccine is an act of charity, the Bishop of South Africa’s Klerksdorp Diocese has said.

In his Wednesday, November 17 message, Bishop Victor Phalana makes reference to the Holy Father who, in August, described getting vaccinated against COVID-19 “an act of love” and asserts that those who choose not to be vaccinated endanger the lives of others.

“Pope Francis says that vaccinating is an act of charity. When a person chooses not to be vaccinated, they are risking the lives of their families and endangering the lives of all they encounter,” Bishop Phalana says, and adds, “Ultimately, being vaccinated puts your neighbor’s life first and is for the public good.”

In his call to all people to get vaccinated, the South African Bishop says, “It is not through our own human intelligence that we have vaccines. It is through God's will, God's intervention and the wisdom God has given to our scientists that we have a vaccine for COVID-19.”

The Catholic Church believes and teaches that God uses prayer, sacraments, blessings, faith, nature and medicine to heal people, he further says, adding that a lot of science was invested in the process of developing COVID-19 vaccine but that the process could not have succeeded without prayers.


Bishop Phalana says explains that successful development of the vaccine is an indicator that the prayers were answered and that getting vaccinated means protecting your neighbor from sickness and harm.

The Local Ordinary of South Africa’s Klerksdorp Diocese cautions against misinformation and disinformation about the vaccine, noting that millions of people have already succumbed to complications associated with the coronavirus.

“This is a moment of profound tragedy and inescapable grief. Do not be stupid. Save your life and save the lives of others,” Bishop Phalana says in his November 17 message that was hinged on an anecdote of a man who refused all practical solutions to get saved and died “because of his deep faith.”

He narrated, “There is an old joke about a man who prays to God to save him from an incoming flood. Because of his deep faith that God alone will save him, he first ignores a canoe, then a motorboat and finally a helicopter that offers to save him. After he drowns, the man goes up to heaven. He confronts God and asks why God didn’t come to his rescue. God responds, ‘Of course I tried to save you. I sent you a canoe, a motorboat and a helicopter. You just didn’t take them.’”

“Why is it that we still have people attending funerals, religious services, weddings, parties, festivals, conferences, knowing that they are not vaccinated? What are you still waiting for? Vaccines work! They are effective and useful,” Bishop Phalana says.

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The South African Bishop makes reference to his earlier YouTube presentations on COVID-19 vaccination and maintains his call on authorities in the country not to force anyone to get vaccinated against their will.

“I called on authorities not to force people to vaccinate against their consciences. We have a duty to explain to them the benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine and we must try to answer their doubts and fears,” he says.

In a Thursday, November 18 message shared on the Facebook, Bishop Phalana says he’s always delighted to preside at a liturgical event with vaccinated participants.

“I feel freer when I preside at liturgical events where people are fully vaccinated. I am happy to visit parishes and to confirm young people who are vaccinated. I worry when people refuse to vaccinate ... I worry because they are risking their lives and the lives of others,” Bishop Phalana says.

He adds, “The virus is still here. Europe and China are going back to hard lockdowns mostly because of the unvaccinated. We will throw masks away once we reach ‘herd immunity’ which is 70 percent of vaccinated people in the society. At the moment we are at 38 percent. It is not bad.”