Earlier this week the Facebook account of the Justice and Peace Department of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) published messages of hope from a number of bishops in the SACBC. Their messages are of mercy, hope and confidence in the resurrection, whilst also showing a concern for the poor, the need for solidarity at this time, and a special concern for those affected by gender-based violence in the home during the lockdown.

Bishop Duncan Tsoke, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg urged everyone “to remain united in faith and to be in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us, the homeless, the elderly, the orphans, the migrants and refugees, domestic violence survivors and all the neglected”.

Coadjutor Archbishop Abel Gabuza of the Archdiocese of Durban thanked health professionals “who have been wonderful in doing their work given the various challenges faced in each context.”

Bishop Phalana of the Diocese of Klerksdorp noted that “We are in pain. We are grieving. Our people are infected and affected. Others are dead. For us Catholics, the Resurrection of Jesus means that Jesus will go with us through the storm of Coronavirus.”

Bishop Nubuasah of the Diocese of Gaborone said that “this is not a time to preach to people. It is a time of solidarity.

Archbishop William Slattery, Archbishop of Pretoria in his video message for Divine Mercy Sunday, noted that “the early church was a strong church because it was a praying church. It listened to the teachings of the apostles; it cared for all who are poor. Let this gospel - the image, the picture of the first church of disciples - let that church be a model for our sodalities, our parishes and our whole church, so that we may be strengthened in our faith.”

Archbishop Stephen Brislin of the Archdiocese of Cape Town said that “we have been given so much by God, most importantly, we have been given the gifts of life and salvation. Whatever the future holds, let us remember that we do not choose the circumstances in which we are called to live our Christianity. We have to follow Jesus in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, no matter how difficult or frustrating they may be. So whatever happens, we will continue to be strong in faith, and to trust in Him.”

While Bishop Sylvester David OMI, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, reflecting on the Cross of Christ asked “How and where do we encounter this mystery? When we suffer or take care of the sick and infirm, we actually touch the cross. Why do we not see it like that? One reason is that we have domesticated the cross and only look for it in antiseptic places. Gilt edged crosses are only found in jewellery stores. The real cross was not perfumed but was covered with dust, blood, sweat and tears. So when we have to contend with sickness and impending death in the family we actually lift the cross out of the rocks of Calvary and plant it firmly in our homes and it is through the Cross that we have salvation.”

The Archbishop of Durban, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, noted that there was an “alarming increase in the distress calls from women and children who are being abused.

“I truly cannot understand how a man, whom the Word of God regards as the head of his family, the defender and protector of his wife and children, can be the cause of misery and suffering to them. This is one of the reasons why I regard the coronavirus lockdown as an opportunity for men to make a new start. I beg you: begin by making your home a real domestic church.”

This article is archived here from my work for the online publication, Spotlight.Africa which I wrote whilst working for the Jesuit Institute South Africa. Spotlight.Africa was a work of the Society of Jesus in South Africa from 2017-2021.

This was originally published at: https://spotlight.africa/2020/04/24/words-of-encouragement-from-the-bishops/