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On Pentecost, Bishops in Africa Urge Charity amid COVID-19 Challenges, Violent Conflicts

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Bishops in Africa have, in a message on the Solemnity of Pentecost, called for charity as a manifestation of life under the influence of the Holy Spirit amid multiple challenges on the continent, including new COVID-19 variants and violent conflicts.

In their 2021 Pentecost Sunday message shared with ACI Africa, members of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) say, “Our continent is currently ravaged by different variants of Coronavirus, recent statistics indicate that confirmed total cases of COVID-19 from African countries are more than 4.7 million and reported deaths are over 127 thousand.”

“This situation is further aggravated by incessant terrorist attacks and other acts of violence, unleashed even on innocent people and children, resulting to tens of thousands of fatalities in a number of African countries,” Catholic Bishops in Africa bemoan.

They add, “Sites of internally displaced people, who are without basic necessities and exposed to infectious diseases are common across the continent and the Islands.”

These highlighted challenges, the members of SECAM say, “are issues of great concern for us, your shepherds and pastors, especially, because we urged for prayers for the end of the pandemic and violence last year (2020), and have been praying since then, yet, the stories are the same, if not worse now.”

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In their Sunday, May 23 message signed by SECAM President, Phillip Cardinal Ouédraogo, Catholic Bishops in Africa express their solidarity with the “infected” and “affected” on the continent.

“To all those infected with different variants of Coronavirus or awfully affected by the raging vicious conflicts and other tragedies, we assure you of our spiritual closeness and solidarity,” the Catholic Church leaders in Africa say.

They add, “We continue to pray for the peaceful repose of the souls of all who have died and condole with those who have lost beloved ones.”

The challenges, the Bishops say, “certainly raises questions about God's power to save his children from such adversities or why He has allowed people to suffer from them for so long.”

SECAM members highlighted similar challenges with regard to COVID-19 last year.

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In their 31 May 2020 message, the Catholic Church leaders expressed concerns about the challenge COVID-19 pandemic was posing for the people of God and institutions in Africa and appealed for individual and collective responsibilities from various stakeholders in the fight against the disease.

“Judging from its devastating effects, it can be said without doubt that the consequences of the pandemic are tragic,” SECAM members noted last year, adding that “on the economic level, recession is evident due to the shutdown of activities, especially in key production sectors, in the tourism sector, air transport and the hotel industry.”

“The social explosion is to be feared in many countries, and in particular, in Africa that is already burdened with debt and where unemployment continues to worsen, which further increases even more the phenomenon of impoverishment of the populations,” they further noted in their 31 May 2020 message.

Making reference to the Letters of John and James in their 2021 Pentecost Sunday message, the Catholic Bishops in Africa remind the people of God that “God our Father is love; He is full of compassion; and has control over creation at all times.”

God cannot turn against His people in Africa, the Bishops reiterate, and add, “Be assured that God is participating in the pain inflicted by COVID-19 and the violence and will surely overcome the distress.”

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They invite the people of God in Africa to “go through life with courage, valor and perseverance” in order for them to be “counted among the blessed ones.” 

“Remember how Job persevered and God restored all his fortunes. Be of good cheer, God will not abandon you in daily life, in calamity and even in death,” SECAM members further say in their May 23 message.

Making reference to the Solemnity of Pentecost, the Catholic Prelates in Africa say, “Pentecost invites us to welcome the Spirit of God in our lives. In our daily struggle to cope with the challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic and insecurity on the continent and the Islands, let us turn to the Holy Spirit for support. He is our Life-force, our Helper, our Advocate, our Counsellor, our Comforter and our Teacher.”

They also make reference to Pope Francis’ 2020 Pentecost homily saying, “Pentecost further reminds us that we are born from a gift and that we grow by giving not only of ourselves but any little we may have.”

“Poverty stares us in the face all over Africa and the Islands,” members of the Ghana-based forum of Catholic Bishops in Africa and Madagascar note, and appeal for charity that is a manifestation of life under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

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“Let us not hold back what will help a fellow brother and sister in need; after all, there is more joy in giving than in receiving,” they say, and add, “Where genuine sharing, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control exist, the Holy Spirit is there at work.”

These manifestations of the Holy Spirit, the Bishops say, “are also practical expressions of our daily Christian witness; and necessary for building a new Africa centered on God.”

“May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Africa and St. Joseph intercede for the Church Family of God in Africa and the Islands,” SECAM members implore in their 2021 Pentecost Sunday message shared with ACI Africa.