, 15 April, 2020 / 5:08 AM
Bishops in Africa have, individually and collectively, offered messages of hope to the people of God on the continent in their respective Easter messages amid “silent Easter” celebrations due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana, the Bishops have described the silence being experienced during Easter as that of hope rather than despair.
“In this atmosphere of eerie silence, we would like to remind all who believe that our silence is not that of despair but of hope,” reads in part the Monday, April 13 Pastoral Letter by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).
“The silence that we observe on Holy Saturday, with no activity, is a symbolic joining of these first followers of Jesus who were mourning and confused because the one they believed was the Messiah, Jesus, had been killed,” the Bishops have written in their collective letter signed by SACBC President, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka.
In the letter, the Bishops have described the silence as “symbolic of the total silence and social isolation that has befallen the whole world because of the unexpected Killer-Coronavirus that has brought fear to all humanity.”
“In the midst of this darkness,” the Church leaders have written, “there has been and continue to be present signs of final victory over the pandemic with heart-warming gestures of solidarity in dealing with the Coronavirus.”
In Nigeria, the Bishops have said that although Easter has been celebrated amid uncertainties, “hope is at the heart of the resurrection message.”
Citing similarities with the time when the followers of Christ thought it was over with His death, the Catholic Prelates in Africa’s most populous country explained, “Today, many people have concluded that it is over with economic recovery, that it is over with equitable wealth for everyone, that it is over with security of lives and property, that it is over with justice in the land.”
“Despite all these,” the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) have noted in their letter by their President Bishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze, “for the risen Lord, nothing is impossible.”
They have urged the people of God in their country to develop patience and acknowledge that God’s time is always the best.
In his own message addressed to the clergy, religious, and lay faithful, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Nigeria’s Oyo diocese wrote, “If Easter was ever necessary in the world, it is now.”
Bishop Badejo explained, “Easter Sunday is the day on which Jesus won the victory over sin and death by his resurrection. Easter Sunday is a day of joy. It is a soothing, consoling event for a world that is reeling with death, disease and conflict and suffering.”
“Easter answers all the questions which Good Friday and other such contradictions raise, like: Why is there suffering in the world? Why do good people suffer? Will good ever bring any reward? Could there be any meaning in suffering? etc. Easter tells us to look at Jesus Christ as the practical answer to such questions,” the Nigerian Prelate who is also at the helm of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS) wrote.
“While Churches may be closed to normal celebrations at this time, Christianity is not closed down,” the Local Ordinary of Oyo said and added, “the basic, domestic church which is the family must continue to function.”
In the West African nation of Ivory Coast, the Archbishop of Abidjan, Jean Pierre Cardinal Kutwa wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic “will certainly pass.”
In his Easter message, he said, “While our world lives under the constraints of the restrictive measures imposed on us by COVID-19, the text of the Easter proclamation that we hear at each Easter Vigil, is a good translation of the times in which we have been living since the coronavirus epidemic turned into a pandemic.”
“A pandemic which, like death, will never have the last word on human history, for Christ is and always will be the victor over death, over every form of death,” the Ivorian Cardinal wrote.
In Ghana, Archbishop, Charles Palmer-Buckle of Cape Coast said during a Television interview, “I believe that thanks to the coronavirus and its restrictions, if we come to a deeper understanding of worshipping in spirit and in truth [as prescribed by the Bible], thereafter, we should be better Christians.”
Speaking on a regular television programme Citi TV’s Point of View with Bernard Avle Monday, April 13, the Ghanaian Archbishop said he believes “this Coronavirus, in the long run, will turn into a greater blessing for you and for me.”
“For once, we are compelled to live together as a family, so let us make it home not a house,” he said during the television program broadcast under the label “Easter Special with Archbishop Gabriel Palmer-Buckle” and added, “Let us make it a family so that we can interact. This is the time I believe the meal at home can become the last supper and meal of the lamp.”
He said the pandemic was offering a great opportunity for the family to “become a domestic Church where parents and their children pray together; where parents and their children sit at a table and eat together; where parents and their children serve one another as Jesus served them; where parents and their children go into the scriptures and share the word together; where parents and their children learn to forgive one another because Jesus forgave us.”
In the East African country of Kenya, Archbishop Anthony Muheria of the Archdiocese of Nyeri challenged the faithful to emerge from the pandemic having converted their ways.
“Let us not rise the same again from this corona pandemic to the soap operas that mock the suffering and the death of the poor,” Archbishop Muheria said during Easter Sunday Mass broadcast of the State-run Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) television and the Nairobi-based Capuchin television.
The Kenyan Prelate implored that “the risen Lord may cure the virus of our greed that makes us so blind that even in the face of death we want to strip the poor off the little, to instrumentalize the calamity.”
In the face of exploitation, politics of division, opportunism, mockery, lack of compassion, Archbishop Muheria said, “Politics must die in the face of the death of a brother. Christ is risen, His joy must make us smile and give the gift of smiles abundantly not pessimism. Can we learn to love one another again this Easter?”
The risen Lord “will defeat the virus of corona, the virus of hatred, the virus of lies, greed, fame and money. He will help us rise again to be human,” the Kenyan Archbishop concluded.
In the landlocked nation of Uganda, the Bishops noted that while “COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted fear, pain and great suffering for many people,” the people of God are being challenged to “encounter suffering with faith, love and hope.”
In their collective message as members of the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC), the Bishops stated, “We are not alone in our darkest moment of pain and agony. The risen Lord is with us.”
For the Bishops in Rwanda, in the face of the present challenges, “God is with us, standing by our side and helping us.”
In their Easter reflection, the Bishops in Rwanda affirmed that Jesus Christ “knows what hurts people and overcomes all evil with love and goodness because he remained obedient to God all his life.”
Jesus Christ “helps us to overcome all trials; he lived like everyone else; he made himself like us in everything except sin,” reads the April 9 letter by the Catholic Bishops in Rwanda.