Ban on Public Worship in Mozambique amid COVID-19
Causing “much greater” Damage: Prelate
An Archbishop in Mozambique has, in a statement, expressed concerns about the ban placed on public worship in the Southern African nation saying the measure taken against the prevention of COVID-19 is causing “much greater” damage to society.
“Closing places of worship may serve to prevent an eventual contamination of the faithful who go to pray, but the damage it does to society in the fight against this pandemic is much greater,” Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna of Beira Archdiocese says in his statement circulated Sunday, March 14.
While the suspension of public worship in Mozambique is considered an easy measure, with no economic costs, Archbishop Zuanna says, the restriction “has little effectiveness from the point of view of prevention, but it makes us believe that we are taking important steps in perhaps realizing that we are weakening our society by robbing it of its soul.”
The Local Ordinary of Beira explains, “By stifling the spiritual dimension and preventing the manifestation of religiosity in the life of the citizen, an irreplaceable element is taken away in God, in solidarity with the community, and its nourishment.”
“Does secularizing society, making religious manifestation something marginal and reserved for the private sphere, respond to the good of the people or to the agendas of a few donors and international agencies?” the 62-year-old Archbishop poses.
On March 5, Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi extended the ban on public worship as a measure to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The Head of State had placed a ban on religious and social gatherings on February 4.
The Southern African nation has recorded 64,516 cases of the coronavirus including 725 fatalities and 50,380 recoveries.
In his statement, the Argentinian-born Archbishop says religious gatherings play an important role in educating the people of God about COVID-19 measures.
“All prevention measures, as is rightly pointed out, can do little without the responsible participation of each citizen,” he says and poses, “How do we educate ourselves to this responsibility, to this caring for one another? Don't religions have a contribution to make?”
Amid the restrictions, Archbishop Zuanna calls on the people of God in the Southern African nation to view the measures as an opportunity to enhance worship in the families.
“Not being able to gather in community, not having our catechism meetings, makes us discover that the Church is a family of families, that our home has the vocation to be the ‘Church of the home, a space for the manifestation and growth of faith,’” Archbishop Zuanna says.
He adds that not being able to participate in Sunday Eucharistic celebration “emphasizes that the Christian life is not reduced to a celebration, but that it is fruitful and manifests itself in daily family, work, and social life.”
Making reference to the Gospel of St. John, the Archbishop adds, “Not being able to receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist regularly makes us discover the value of the words of the Gospel where Jesus says: ‘If anyone keeps my word, I and the Father will come to him and make our home in him’ (Jn 14:23).”
The Archbishop of Beira adds that not having catechism classes is an invitation for the faithful to “assume the necessity of our Christian formation with the frequent listening to the Word of God and to be the evangelizers of our children.”
“Our liturgies are an experience of encounter with God; but sometimes the external manifestations distract us from what is essential: personal prayer favors the encounter with Him,” he says.
Making reference to Easter triduum, the Archbishop says that the celebration will be marked while appreciating that the COVID-19 restrictions are indicating “the centrality of the family in the experience of faith and its transmission; living the faith in everyday life beyond the moments of celebration; giving thanks for the communion with God that is not limited to Eucharistic communion; listening to the Word of God with our children, cultivating personal prayer, showing our joy for the great feast of Easter.”
“Our closed churches resemble Jesus imprisoned and nailed to the cross; but it was even through this immobility that He manifested his closeness to our suffering humanity and saved us by conquering hatred, sin, and death,” he further says.
“May Mary, the courageous woman at the foot of the cross, rejoice with us when she meets the Risen One who tells us: ‘Peace be with you,’” Archbishop Zuanna implores.
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