, 02 April, 2020 / 8:45 AM
The news of the hospitalization of the President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Phillip Cardinal Ouédraogo, with COVID-19 was received with shock across the continent, with Catholic Church leaders known to the Burkinabe Prelate expressing their solidarity in messages seen by ACI Africa.
He is the first African Cardinal known to have tested positive for the coronavirus that has infected at least 684,868 across the globe.
“The shocking news of your encounter with the notorious Corona Virus reached us. We thank God that it was discovered early enough to be dealt with,” reads in part the solidarity message of Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, the 1st Vice President of SECAM.
The South African Prelate adds referencing Bishops at the helm of SECAM, “We have informed all the Standing Committee Members and entrusted you to their prayers.”
In his April 1 solidary message, Bishop Sipuka who heads the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) assures the Cardinal “of our continuous prayer for a speedy recovery” and adds, “as this disease is now a global phenomenon, we include in our prayers the whole world for a quick arrest of the spread and for a cure to be found.”
The Bishop of South Africa’s Mthatha diocese further writes, “As we approach the Holy Week of our salvation, may you feel the affectionate and saving power of our Savior who told us not to be afraid because He is with us.”
The President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS), Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo has also expressed his solidarity with the Cardinal, praying that “God lay healing hands on our President and heal him.”
In a message shared with ACI Africa upon learning that the Cardinal had been taken ill, the Nigerian Prelate wrote, “The Church bears the mark of the suffering of God's people. It shall be well because the Good Shepherd does not abandon his sheep.”
Bishop John MacWilliams, of Algeria's Diocese of Laghouat who is also a member of SECAM Standing Committee shared his solidarity message with ACI Africa.
Writing from his diocese in North Africa where he says he is “confined in the house,” the Missionary of Africa Bishop recalled their recent meeting in Kenya’s capital Nairobi saying, “Our Cardinal Philippe caught the virus just after our meeting in Kenya. Let’s keep praying for him and for each other.”
During their Standing Committee meeting in Nairobi early last month, the African Church leaders called on governments on the continent to put in place appropriate measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Africa and formulated a prayer for a “quick control of Coronavirus.”
In his solidarity message, the Treasurer of SECAM, Archbishop John Bonaventure Kwofie says to Cardinal Ouédraogo, “We wish you a speedy recovery and join you in the fight against Coronavirus that you insisted must be a pastoral priority.”
Archbishop Kwofie reiterates in reference to the Cardinal, “At the meeting of the Standing Committee of SECAM in early March in Nairobi, he was deeply worried about this scourge.”
“As different countries in Africa with the rest of the world live these challenging times of COVID-19, we unite with you in living this difficult time and assure you and the entire Church in Burkina Faso of our solidarity and the support of our prayers for you and all,” the Archbishop of Accra in Ghana where SECAM is headquartered says in a message shared with ACI Africa.
“He (Cardinal Ouédraogo) demonstrated leadership when he said, "our people must stay alive and healthy to serve God", and so led us to compose a prayer to be said against the spread of COVID-19,” the Spiritan Prelate recalls in his March 31 solidarity messaged sent to ACI Africa.
In Africa, at least 5,856 people have tested positive for COVID-19. The deadly virus has claimed at least 201 lives on the continent; 430 have recovered from the disease, according to a report.
Cardinal Ouédraogo is the second prelate in Burkina Faso to have tested positive for COVID-19 after the Archbishop Emeritus of Koupela, Seraphin Rouamba, also suffered the scourge of the virus.
The Vicar Apostolic of Ethiopia’s Gambella Vicariate, Bishop Angelo Moreschi is the first Catholic Prelate known to have died of the pandemic, which has killed more than 60 Priests.
Damian Avevor, ACI Africa correspondent in Ghana, contributed to this story.
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