, 12 May, 2020 / 2:18 AM
Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Benin (CEB) have, in a statement, urged the faithful in the West African country to take advantage of the restrictions put in place to curb the possible spread of COVID-19 by praying at the level of their respective families even as they wait for the resumption of public worship.
“We your Bishops invite you in these difficult times to redouble your efforts in prayer in your families, which have become true domestic churches, places of prayer, consolation and living faith, awaiting the great liturgical celebrations that will follow the reopening of our churches,” the Bishops in Benin said in their collective press release issued Friday, May 8.
According to the members of CEB, the suspension of public worship provides “the moment for us to open our hearts to the dimension of the world and to feel the immense suffering of the churches of silence in some countries where persecuted Christians cannot publicly profess their faith.”
“It is also the time for us to be in real communion of prayer with those who, in other countries, subjected to armed conflicts, no longer have access to any community religious worship or risk being massacred in full celebration,” the Bishops stated in the press release signed by CEB President, Bishop Victor Agbanou.
Benin has recorded at least 319 cases of COVID-19 with two deaths and 62 recoveries, according to statistics from Worldometers.
Despite limiting public gatherings and advising people to stay at home, the West African nation has opted to manage the crisis according to the threat it poses to the population, a local media reported.
In a press release dated March 19, Bishops in Benin announced their decision to temporarily suspend Eucharistic celebrations and pastoral activities following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The Bishops extended the suspension through another communiqué dated April 4, in which they invited the faithful to live the Easter celebrations through various means of communication.
In their collective message under the theme, “Everything works for the good for those who love God,” members of CEB used the opportunity to salute the efforts of the people of God in Benin for the many initiatives taken to remain firm in their faith.
The Church leaders acknowledged the many initiatives taken by parish priests and parish administrators to sustain the faithful in their Christian faith, including the ringing of bells to pray the Angelus in communion with the faithful in their homes, various teachings broadcast via the Internet, radio and Mass televised and on YouTube and Facebook.
In their May 8 collective statement, the Bishops recognized the efforts by the lay faithful saying, “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all your gestures of solidarity and communion towards your priests during this time of global health crisis.”
Regarding the lifting of restrictions on closure of churches and places of worship, members of CEB invited the faithful of the Catholic Church to be patient and remain serene in the Lord.
“Now that the gradual return to normal life is on the horizon, we invite you to have patience and serenity in the Lord for the reopening of the churches, which is long overdue,” the Prelates said in their message.
They added, “We are aware of the inconveniences and spiritual thirst caused by this unprecedented situation. We even understand the beginning of a certain impatience among many of you. We all suffer from seeing the doors of our churches closed. But all these events constitute a moment of grace for which we express our gratitude to the Lord, Sovereign Master of our lives.”
According to the Bishops, “All these situations that present themselves to us, it is the love of the Risen Christ that invites us to renounce what is dear to our identity as Catholic Christians in order to enter into adoration ‘in spirit and in truth’. This situation leads us to refocus on the essential and invites us to rediscover another dimension of our life of faith.”
“Pray for those affected by the virus in different parts of the world,” They implored and concluded, “In this month of May, through the intercession of Mary, our heavenly Mother, may the Lord grant healing to the sick, eternal life to the dead, and consolation to the afflicted families.”
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