, 22 May, 2020 / 4:48 AM
As Muslims around the world prepare to mark Eid al-Fitr, the celebration of the end of the dawn-to-sunset month-long fasting of Ramadan, the head of the Catholic Church in the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius has expressed his solidarity with the Muslim faithful in the country, regretting COVID-19 related restrictions that will limit gatherings.
“Dear brothers and sisters of Muslim faith, I fully understand your disappointment at not being able to celebrate it (Eid al-Fitr), with the community, at the mosque, and in the joy of large family reunions, as you are used to,” the Bishop of Port-Louis Diocese, Maurice Cardinal Piat said Thursday, May 21.
“Having experienced the same frustration at Easter last month, we can sympathize with you on this point,” the Cardinal added in his message published on the website of Port Louis Diocese.
The marking of such religious celebrations in confinement “is a spiritual sacrifice that we can offer to God by asking Him to protect the Mauritian people and help them come out more fraternal and more united in this great ordeal,” Cardinal Piat, a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), reflected.
Ahead of the start of the Holy Month of Ramadhan, the Church in Mauritius on May 14 joined Muslims in the country for a day of prayer, youth and charitable work in response to the call of the Vatican-affiliated interreligious High Committee for Human Fraternity for a day of “prayer and supplication” to God for an end to the pandemic.
“This (day of prayer) brought us together as brothers in humanity, each with his own beliefs and rituals, to implore the same God and ask him to have mercy on us in this tragedy with terrible economic and social consequences,” the 78-year-old Prelate has said in reference to the common prayer on May 14.
Mauritius, located about 1,930 kilometers off the coast of Africa is a religiously-diverse nation. Of the 1.2 million population, 49 percent are Hindus, 32 percent Christians, 17 percent Muslims and 0.4 percent Buddhists.
Catholicism is the dominant Christian denomination with 26.2 percent followers, spread across the diocese of Port-louis and the Apostolic Vicariate of Rodrigues.
“On this feast of Eid, I pray with you the Almighty and Merciful God, asking him to protect our country and to put in our hearts a spirit of wisdom, courage and brotherhood, so that we can overcome this health and economic crisis together that upsets us all,” Cardinal Piat wrote May 21.
“In these special circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, I would like, on my own behalf and on behalf of all my Christian brothers and sisters, to wish you, despite everything, a beautiful and joyous feast of Eid,” the Mauritian Cardinal concluded.
Following the extension of the nationwide curfew in the country to June 1, the Cardinal has issued directives to guide pastoral activities scheduled for May 15-31.
In the guidelines issued Thursday May 21, burials are to be done “directly at the cemetery” with not more than ten people and with mourners observing social distancing.
The Cardinal Maurice has cautioned against having burial ceremonies in the homes of the deceased “because it will be difficult to meet the sanitary conditions required.”
“The sacrament of the sick at home is authorized provided that the strict sanitary conditions are respected (wearing a mask and gloves),” the Prelate also directed.
He further directed, “As for pastoral activities and ceremonies at the church after the 1st June 2020, the diocese will have to wait for new government regulations.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa