, 20 April, 2020 / 10:07 PM
As Catholics across the globe celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday against the backdrop of COVID-19 restrictions, a Church leader in Nigeria has encouraged the people of God in Africa’s most populous country not to despair but rather stand firm in their faith in God.
Although COVID-19 has “brought the whole world to its knees,” Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja said, the disease “is not powerful enough to infect or bury our faith; the social distancing is not enough to disorganize our Church and take away our sense of caring for one another.”
He went on to reflect, “The early Church grew every day because of the acts of mercy shown by its members sharing genuine love. Coronavirus or no coronavirus, our faith and our Church are intact.”
“You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Please keep the Church going in your hearts. The Church is not just a physical building,” Archbishop Kaigama said Sunday, April 19 and added, “If anything, this tragedy is a Kairos, a time God has set aside for all of humanity to know that He alone is the Lord.”
Though the virus has led to the physical separation of the people of God, Archbishop Kaigama encouraged the faithful to be “spiritually bonded, in communion.”
He added, “That a tiny virus even though can make the world superpowers tremble, cause economic stagnation and make science and technology seem impotent, God remains Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. He can, with the blow of air, cause the virus to cease to exist.”
For this reason, the 61-year-old Prelate urged the faithful to emulate the Apostles by allowing "Jesus to meet you even in your locked room as he met them in the room locked for fear of the Jewish authorities."
"Even when your faith is shaky and unstable like that of Thomas, Jesus will strengthen your faith because he is God and has the power to forgive you your doubts, failings and sins. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Open the door of your heart," he said referencing the book of Revelation 3:20.
According to the Archbishop, "This time is a very special and providential period for all of humanity. It is an opportunity to start loving and caring again more than ever before."
"This is time to practice and develop the culture of silence, a time to develop a deeper interior life, a time to read the word of God more and make it our daily bread; a time for intense prayer, a time to love without boundaries and to take our religion to a higher level; not just a superficial, external worship but the concrete application of what Jesus taught us about love, peace, service, forgiveness," the Nigerian Prelate explained.
The Local Ordinary of Abuja also asked the faithful to seek the mercy of God which is shown in different ways “especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”
He acknowledged “the fact that many of you have not had access to the sacrament of Penance since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. And many are also wondering what to do in this circumstance when confession in person to a priest is not easy.”
“In accordance with the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the Prelate advised, “do a perfect act of contrition; and secondly, have a firm resolve to go to for sacramental confession as soon as it is possible to find a priest to hear your confession.”
Archbishop Kaigama who is also the Apostolic Administrator of Jos said, “Contrition is perfect when it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else.”
The Church, he said, believes and teaches that perfect contrition “remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness for mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.”
“So do not be afraid to talk to God as your Father and to ask Him forgiveness for your sins. Make the most out of this era of coronavirus. Consider it a prolonged retreat and encounter God the best way possible, quietly and trustfully,” the Archbishop of Abuja said.
Reflecting on the effects of the lockdown of some States and restriction of free movements among other measures that have been taken to combat the spread of the virus, the Archbishop said, “many Nigerians are in dire need of food and drink, and many more may soon exhaust their meagre resources that sustain them.”
The Prelate has therefore appealed to the faithful to generously donate into the Archdiocese’s Emergency fund to support the needy saying, “The number of those who need material support and palliatives are on the rise. This is a moment to complement the efforts of the government and other generous groups to come to the aid of these needy brothers and sisters of ours.”
“We need to identify and unite with our suffering brothers and sisters. We have asked those who are able to donate into the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja Emergency Account opened to support those infected or affected by the pandemic, through a committee headed by St. Vincent de Paul group,” he added.
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