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Even with COVID-19, “Churches must remain open in our hearts”: South Sudanese Bishop

Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio diocese, South Sudan.

As governments struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19, reinforcing preventive measures, a South Sudanese Catholic Bishop has encouraged Christians to recognize the fact that as people of God, they are the church that “must remain open” amid directives to close church buildings.

“Today, even in the suffering of distance, the churches must remain open in our hearts and in our actions, in the holiness of our daily lives,” Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala of South Sudan’s Tombura-Yambio diocese told Agenzia Fides in an interview.

He added, “The buildings remain physically closed, but our hearts are open and our spiritual life continues.”

Referencing the political situation in his country where three cases of COVID-19 have been reported, Bishop Hiiboro noted, “We are not in a position to fight any more wars. We lack the strength. The population is destroyed, homeless.”

“I pray to God that a solution will be found as soon as possible to defeat the virus throughout the world, to bring peace to our country and to all the other war zones so that we can move forward, all together, towards a peaceful world,” the South Sudanese Prelate stated.

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South Sudan reported the first case of COVID-19 Sunday, April 5. This was announced at a Press Conference in South Sudan’s capital, Juba by the First Vice-President Riek Machar who doubles as the deputy chairman of the country’s High-Level Taskforce on COVID-19, according to a report.

“The Ministry of Health’s Rapid Response Team went to the clinic and collected the samples the same day. The initial test came positive. A second run of the confirmatory test also returned positive,” said Dr Machar April 5.

Regarding the pandemic, the 56-year-old South Sudanese Prelate appealed to the entire population of his country to “respect the directives given by the government, especially for the protection and health of the poorest.”

“The presence of the virus is particularly disastrous for the poorest strata. Infrastructure is lacking. Let us pray to the Lord that He will continue to help us and to remain at our side,” he said.

The Bishop of Tombura-Yambio diocese also expressed support for Pope Francis’ call for “an immediate worldwide ceasefire in every corner of the world" and expressed the hope that such ceasefire can also be applied in South Sudan.

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“The pastoral commitment that Pope Francis is carrying out for the benefit of all humanity continues to move me deeply,” Bishop Hiiboro said and added in reference to the Holy Father, “He is always present, in every circumstance, suffering, which concerns humanity. I myself have experienced this personally, as has the entire population of South Sudan.”

Pope Francis on Sunday March 29, appealed for a global ceasefire as countries work to defend their populations from COVID-19 saying, “The current emergency of COVID-19 … knows no borders.”

The Pope urged nations in conflict to respond to an appeal made by the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on March 23 for an “immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” to “focus together on the true fight of our lives,” the “battle” against the coronavirus.

Bishop Hiiboro described the Pope as a “true Good Samaritan” who is “always close to all those in need. He puts his life in danger, spares no effort and energy to make his presence felt in every community.”

“For my part, I continue to encourage my Diocese, South Sudan and the whole world to stay in line with the Pope, to work together for peace, for the sick and for the prevention of the virus,” Bishop Hiiboro concluded.

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