God “calling us to solidarity” amid COVID-19: South African Bishop in Christmas Message

The COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to have negative effects on the people of God across the globe, is an avenue that God is using to call His people to solidarity, regardless of socio-cultural, economic and other distinguishing characteristics, a South African Bishop has said.

In his Christmas message ACI Africa has obtained, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of South Africa’s Umtata Diocese says that COVID-19 medication, including vaccinations “must be made available to all in an equitable and affordable manner.”

Bishop Sipuka says, “As heaven and earth united when Jesus was born, more than ever in this COVID-19 period God is calling us to solidarity.”

“God is making us realize that regardless of nationality, wealth, class, race and age we are all brothers and sisters and invited to care for each other,” he further says.

In the December 16 message, the Bishop who doubles as the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) goes on to liken COVID-19 pandemic to King Herod “who tried to change the joyful mood of the birth of Christ expressed in the song of angels and shepherds by seeking to kill the child Jesus.”


“Similarly, the Coronavirus is bent on making this season of joy a sorrowful season by destroying lives and making it hard for people to earn a living,” he says in his statement published on the website of the Interregional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA).

During this Christmas, “we are called to shed off our Herod syndrome of selfishness that seeks to take advantage of this painful period to make profit by committing fraud and corruption around the funds that are meant to bring relief against the onslaught of Coronavirus,” the 60-year-old South African Bishop cautions.

“As hopes to discover a vaccine against Coronavirus rise, when the drug is eventually found, in the spirit of Christmas, it must be made available to all in an equitable and affordable manner,” the Bishop urges in his December 16 message.

“Profit consideration must not be the main priority about the drug but the common good must take precedence,” he further says and adds, “In the spirit of human solidarity, whatever nation or continent that discovers the drug first must not hoard it but share with other nations and continents.”

As Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ amid the “huge economic inequalities in our societies and in the world” that have resulted from COVID-19, Bishop Sipuka urges the people of God to foster unity and solidarity. 

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Such solidarity, the Bishop who is the first Vice President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) says, “will find expression in an economy that is inclusive instead of the present form of economy where only a few benefit from it.”

The Bishop regrets the fact that COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in the whole world leaving a trail of pain and suffering, completely disrupting people’s way of life, bringing about isolation and loneliness, making the situation of the poor and destitute worse and prematurely ending hundreds of thousands of lives.

“As the wise men outsmarted Herod and went back home on a different route, God has given us the intelligence to outsmart this virus in three simple ways: wearing the mask, washing our hands and keeping safe distance,” the Bishop who has been shepherding God’s people in Umtata since May 2008 urges.

Addressing himself to young people “who appear impatient with COVID-19 health protocols and are becoming ‘super spreaders’ of the virus,” Bishop Sipuka appeals, “For the love of life and for the common good, let us undertake this temporal sacrifice of moderating our festive celebration.”

“Christ is present among us even as we celebrate His birth in smaller circles of families and friends than in huge crowds and in a less extravagant way than we usually do,” he says in his Christmas message.


He implores, “May the magnanimity, love and generosity expressed by the Christmas season permeate us and influence our interactions during this trying time of COVID-19. Blessed Christmas.”