The Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) has preached hope and love to people affected by, and infected with, coronavirus.
It has made the call in a pastoral statement dated January 26 2021.
The statement, titled ‘Need for Pastoral Solidarity during the Covid-19 Pandemic’, is premised on Mark 1:29-31, where Jesus Christ heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law after she develops fever.
“They [those in the household] would have chosen not to disturb him by keeping silent of the illness. Some of us, after being diagnosed Covid positive, may not want people to know. We are encouraged for the sake of those around us to disclose our condition so that others may be saved from infection if they take proper measures to protect themselves. Covid deaths are dehumanising in many ways; the isolation and loneliness of those infected and the burials that do not allow for dignified funeral and burial service.
“But, as those men who did not discriminate against the paralysed man but brought him to Jesus, we too should demonstrate love and sympathy to those suffering from Covid and refrain from stigmatising them. Let us avoid making Covid-infected and affected members of the society relive the experience lepers used to undergo among the Jews in the Old Testament, when they were being discriminated against,” the statement reads.
Catholic leaders in Malawi then urge parishioners to form solidarity networks to support those affected and infected by Covid while observing ascribed prevention measures.
The statement notes that Covid has brought a sense of fear of the actual disease and negatively impacted personal finances.
“Covid has instilled in us fear but, as Christians, this is time to preach a message of hope. We will be raised by the hand of the Lord. The Father through his son will raise us up,” reads the statement.
ECM spokesperson Father Henry Saindi said, in an interview, that the statement encourages the church to fight the pandemic on two fronts: Observing preventive measures and calling on God’s intervention.
He said bishops are also trying to inspire hope in the faithful, emphasising that while some people are succumbing to Covid, the majority is recovering.
“It’s not just a matter of saying people are dying. Yes people have succumbed to the pandemic but we also have Christians and priests who have recovered and are home. That too should be highlighted,” he said.
Since the advent of Covid last year, five priests have succumbed to the same, four of whom died this month.