, 19 April, 2020 / 6:38 PM
In a bid to cater for the spiritual needs of the people of God in Malawi during the 21-day lockdown period envisaged by the government, Bishops in the Southern Africa nation have, in a collective statement, directed the Catholic media to include religious and pastoral content alongside relevant information about COVID-19.
“Catholic media houses, working in close collaboration with the Pastoral Commission, must not only disseminate information about coronavirus but must also prepare some pastoral resources to be aired through radio, television and social media platforms,” the Catholic Bishops in Malawi stated in their collective message.
The Catholic media should also “broadcast the Eucharistic celebration which Christians will follow at designated times of the day,” the Bishops directed, enlisting the various media outlets own by Church institutions, “namely, TV Luntha, Radio Maria Malawi, Radio Alinafe, Radio Tigabane and Radio Tuntufye.”
The broadcast of Masses, the Catholic Prelates in Malawi stated, would be done to compliment daily prayers in respective households and “on Sundays, the Order of Prayers where there is No Mass found in Chitsime and the Missal.”
The Bishops also directed the Priests “offer their pastoral ministry using the innovations available in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as well as offer sacramental services in line with the guidelines issued by the Holy See in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Malawi has recorded at least 16 cases of the disease and not any related deaths.
In a bid to stop the spread of the virus, Malawi’s Minister of Health, Jappie Mhangothe announced the lockdown starting midnight April 18 to midnight May 9.
However, on Friday, April 17, Malawi’s High Court granted an injunction to the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) against the lockdown.
HRDC had sought court orders to stop the shutdown based on “the government’s failure to cushion the poor during the lockdown,” Malawi’s Nyasa Times reported.
Hours before the injunction was granted, local traders in various parts of the country had taken to the streets to protest the lockdown and vowed to disregard it because of their inability to cater for the needs of their families, Aljazeera reported.
In their collective statement, the Bishops in Malawi directed that Priests “celebrate Mass daily in their Parish Church or Community chapel in order to pray for the intentions of the people.”
“In the event that Priests are called upon to anoint the sick who are in danger of death, they must seek medical advice from competent health professionals and ensure that they protect themselves and others by using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) i.e. certified clothing, masks and gloves etc.,” the Prelates directed.
Further, the Prelates decreed that “Major seminarians, as much as possible, should be assigned to different parishes and not their homes, where they will stay waiting for the re-opening of school.”
In their anticipation of the lockdown, the eight Church leaders asked Parish Priests to consult with their respective Local Ordinaries on “every initiative undertaken in Parishes.”
“The above directives are subject to minor modifications by Local Ordinaries to suit specific needs and local situations,” the Bishops stated in their two-page collective message.
To all the Clergy and the faithful, the Church leaders reminded them to “continue to strictly adhere to the Health and Pastoral Guidelines earlier issued by the Conference and Ministry of Health i.e. washing hands with soap regularly and thoroughly, avoiding physical greeting and contact, observing social distance etc.”
“Let us unite in prayer, even when we are practically not able to meet as a liturgical assembly in our Lay Organization, Small Christian Community (SCC), Out-Station or Parish,” the Bishops stated and concluded, citing Ephesians 6:18, “Let us give heed to the exhortation of St. Paul when he says: ‘Pray without ceasing.’”
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