COVID-19 Effects “have dire consequences for Church in South Africa”: Cleric Reflects

A South African Cleric has, in a reflection, shared his observations on “visible repercussions” of the COVID-19 pandemic, which he says has negatively affected the people of God in the country.

“There are already visible repercussions of COVID-19 being felt and I am afraid such effects have dire consequences for the Church in South Africa,” Fr. Elias Ledwaba has said in his reflection published Thursday, January 7.

In the reflection published on the website of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA), the South African Cleric says COVID-19 “has negatively affected church attendance.”

“This global pandemic, at least in my parochial jurisdiction, has exposed demographics; it became crystal clear that the church comprises an older generation which is mostly susceptible and stands at a higher risk of infection and eventually succumbing to COVID-19,” Fr. Ledwaba explains.

The realization that the church in his jurisdiction consists of a vulnerable older generation “poses as a challenge to devise means of reaching out to this group of people and to propose new ways of youth and young adult evangelization,” the Priest of Polokwane Diocese notes in his reflection.


“COVID-19 has already forced certain parishes or even Dioceses into bankruptcy,” the Cleric further observes and adds, “As it has already been ascertained, church attendance has decreased drastically and cash injection for the sustenance of the Clergy and the Parish is impacted.”

Parish bankruptcy has a negative effect “because most Dioceses rely on parishes for their survival,” Fr. Ledwaba says.

However, he further says, “COVID-19 has challenged Parishes and Dioceses to be forward thinking and to find ways to keep themselves financially afloat.”

The Cleric goes on to caution, “If the trajectory of COVID-19 continues as it is, I am afraid a sizable number of Parishes will have to be merged or even closed.”

With a rising number of COVID-19 infections in South Africa, which have claimed several members of the Clergy, Religious men and women, Fr. Ledwaba’s “greatest worry and concern are Priests with comorbidities, who are staying alone in Parishes because of the massive shortage of Priests and still have to carry out their ministerial obligations amidst those underlying conditions.”

More in Africa

In the wake of the second wave of COVID-19, six Catholic Sisters from the Daughters of Saint Francis in Port Shepstone, Marianhill Diocese succumbed to the disease “within a period of a week, from 10-17 December 2020,” the Conference of Catholic Sisters in the country reported.

“This is a very painful reminder that the scourge of COVID-19 is yet to lessen its devastation to communities and society at large,” officials of the Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life (LCCLSA) said in their December 18 statement shared with ACI Africa.

On the positive side, Fr. Ledwaba says in his January 7 reflection, COVID-19 has provided the Church in South Africa “an opportunity to re-evaluate herself and her efficacy on reaching the people of God.”

“I am consoled by the fact that COVID-19 has provided people with a prolonged ‘retreat’ to assess their relationship with God, to strengthen family bonds and to grow spiritually; to introspect and make certain behavioral changes and to learn to appreciate everything we have,” Fr. Ledwaba says.

He adds, “As we struggle with this invisible yet felt enemy, let us always remember that there is always a light at the end of a tunnel.”