Amid Stay-at-Home Directive, “something good can still emerge”: Ethiopian Cardinal

Berhaneyesus Cardinal Souraphel, Archbishop of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The head of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia has encouraged the people of God in the country to turn the challenge of staying at home amid COVID-19 into an opportunity for reflection “on the meaning of life” in the light of the “Word of God.”

In his Pastoral Letter on the occasion of Pentecost Sunday marked June 7 in the country in the Horn of Africa, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia, Berhaneyesus Cardinal Souraphiel acknowledged the temptation to “lose one’s patience.”

“We stay at home in order to avoid the risk of being affected by the virus. This is however challenging and one may lose one’s patience. Yet, something good can still emerge,” Cardinal Souraphiel reflected in his Pastoral Letter issued on the eve of Pentecost Saturday, June 6 and added, “If one concentrates, contemplates and prays, one may gain a lot by reflecting on the meaning of life.”

He continued, “The time at home may be used for conversion, for meditation of the Word of God and for creative activities.”

“Our home is our space of security. It is there that we learned to love, to grow and to socialize. There is warmth in a house where love reigns. Children become well-developed in a house where Charity rules. A house that welcomes love becomes beautiful,” Cardinal Souraphiel who is the Local Ordinary of Addis Ababa reflected.


He continued in reference to being at home, “Prayers flow easily in such a house. Let us hence spark the fire of love in order to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.”

The member of the Congregation of the Mission (CM) founded by St. Vincent de Paul went on to reflect about the homeless amid COVID-19 restrictions probing, “If our home is so important, what about those who have no shelters? How can we support them? Who can come to their rescue?”

“One needs to be in a house in order to appreciate the beauty of the stars, the Sun and the Moon. Whereas those without shelter suffer under the burning sun or the biting cold,” he reflected.

The 71-year-old Cardinal invoked the words of Jesus, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” and advocated for compassion for the homeless.

“Compassion for the homeless goes hand in hand with praise for the gift of home. Human dignity implies the right of shelter,” he said and added, “We may recall those who eat from hand to mouth. It would be wrong to say, ‘let the fittest survive’ and let us abandon the weak. That would be to harm ourselves and our society.”

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In a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Ethiopia, the government directed the federal civil servants in the country to start working from home in March. Schools were closed; sporting events and all social gatherings were also suspended.   

Africa’s second-most populous nation also declared a five-month state of emergency in April.

The country has recorded at least 2,156 cases of COVID-19 including 361 recoveries and 27 deaths.

In his Pastoral Letter, Cardinal Souraphiel acknowledged with appreciation the role of health workers in the fight against the coronavirus.

“Today’s health workers and all assistants deserve our praise and recognition,” he said and reminisced, “History shows how numerous champions of faith, religious and lay, have sacrificed their lives by serving the needy during pandemics. These witnesses of Christ have glorified God and human beings, created in his image and likeness.” 


“The Lord blesses them for what they give,” the Cardinal said in reference to the health workers adding, “Let us join them in their precious service through our prayers and actions.”

“It is in such services that we can confess that God is love. Hospitals and health centers struggle to diminish or eliminate the suffering of human beings,” he reflected.

In his Pastoral Letter, the Ethiopian Cardinal also reflected about the need to care for the environment amid the challenges of life.

“There is also someone we often forget, namely our mother Earth. Her cry, together with the tears of the poor, reach the gates of heaven,” he said.

 “The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor,” the Cardinal reflected, referencing the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’,

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Giving examples of some countries where mother earth enjoys good attention through the planting of trees, the Cardinal said, “By doing this they try to alleviate the earth’s suffering. They counter the damages of human greed and pride and irresponsible exploitation.”

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.