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The church’ll come out of pandemic, stronger – Msgr Ezeobata

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THE lockdown of churches around the world during the Palm Sunday also spirals through the Easter period. What does it portend for the Christendom?

  With the progressive movement of the novel Coronavirus (COVID – 19) through the world, the experts, public health agencies, and various specialists discovered the modes of transmission of the disease which centre mostly on contact between a carrier and others by touching, as in shaking hands or hugging or catching emitted droplets from a carrier, or touching surfaces contaminated by the virus.

The most effective methods prescribed to arrest the movement of the virus by these modes include social distancing, regular hand washing with soap and water and using hand sanitisers, as well as avoiding crowded environments. All of these came down to the now familiar term: lockdown, succinctly expressed in the mantra “stay at home, stay safe”.

In order to give these measures, governments and public institutions enacted guidelines and directives which translated into shutting down public places and events where people gather like markets, schools, clubs, theatres, work places, offices, among others.

  It is in line with this same objective in mind, that the church in loving solicitude as a mother, put in place certain provisions to protect her children from catching and spreading the contagion from one another by gathering together in large numbers in the same place.

One such provision or measure is the directive to not hold public celebrations of masses and other religious events. It is here important to clarify, especially for the benefit of those who may not be well grounded on the usages in the Catholic Church, that why the public celebration of Masses has been temporarily suspended, the celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist which is the source and summit of Christian life is continually going on, by the Priests, and in some cases with their households, on behalf of all the people.

This is what obtained on Palm Sunday, and is likely to continue through the Easter period this year 2020. This arrangement has been in place in several other parts of the world, for upwards of three to four months in some cases. It has only just come to effect in our place where the Coronavirus pandemic has come in the past several weeks.

  In terms of its impact on the Christian Community, it is of serious significance. It is a situation which is unprecedented in recent memory and it had caused quite some unease in many church circles. Some members of Christ’s Faithful are perplexed, confused, embarrassed, and in some cases, disappointed.

The way it is managed, the catechesis that goes on alongside the situation, the massive use of the media to supply for the participation of the people in the celebrations and activities that are on- going, and of course, above all, the grace of God, will shape the outcome when it is all over.

One would strongly hope that the Church will emerge from this stronger, and with deeper personal faith in members. The Church had experienced similar situations in the long distant past, and that gives assurance that it will come out of this more fortified, especially with the ardent prayers, repentance, and conversion of the faithful.

What is the view and position of the Church concerning this pandemic that is shaking the world and most essential as it affects the seat of the Roman Catholic Church?

  The Catholic Church is a very long standing institution, indeed arguably the oldest in the same form and structure for over 2000 years. She has passed through a lot and has witnessed a lot. It has known epidemics, pandemics, and localised plagues.

Hence the view and position of the Church about COVID – 19 is simply that, a pandemic that started in China and spread to most of the world so far. The Church had responded to it with the same approach beginning from Rome Italy which is one of the early places affected after China.

The Church takes seriously the view of the experts and public health agencies, and directed her Faithful accordingly all through the world, to observe the prescriptions for fighting the disease, and also to pray intensively to God for the end of the scourge.

Will it be proper to infer that this pandemic is a divine arrangement by God to put a reminder to the world that we humans are derailing from God’s divine purpose?

  Of course, whatever events that happen in the world or even in the lives of individuals would always have some known immediate natural or artificial causes. But the world is the Lord’s and God uses many ways and events in the world to call the minds and hearts of men and women back to himself.

There is no doubt that there are many serious aberrations by which human beings in our days are derailing from the norms of God; so many of the behaviours which the contemporary world readily accept, but which are contrary to the laws of nature and of God.

  It is easy to infer that the present debacle which has humbled all the world and brought the world to its knee may not be altogether unconnected with God calling on man to stop, reflect, take stock and return to the ways of God. One can only hope that these lessons be learnt, and human beings change their ways.

What is your message to Christians in this period of COVID- 19 pandemic?

  My message to Christians in this period of COVID – 19 pandemic would be first and foremost, to pray, to repent from all our evil ways, and to seek the face of God in every way. Secondly, I must call on all, Christians and others to adhere strictly by the guidelines issued towards the fight against the pandemic: stay at home, practice social distancing, hand washing, use of sanitisers, avoidance of crowds, observe hygienic manners in coughing and sneezing, keep the tenets of the lockdown, among others.

  It will also be necessary to advise all to seek information from the proper and official sources and refuse fake news and unfounded conspiracy theories which distract from following the right ways. Seeing also the high level of suffering and deprivation occasioned by these regulations, Christians and indeed all humanity should intensify the practice of charity to help in any way possible to alleviate the deplorable conditions of the most vulnerable.

  We should also be mindful of our medical and nursing personnel, and all in the essential services, all other front line workers, who stand in the forefront of this fight, and expose themselves in their line of duty to the risk of contracting the contagion, to pray for them, to applaud them, and above all, to stay at home for their sake, by curtailing the spread of the virus.

  Christians should use the period to more deeply realise and reinforce their perception of themselves as the real “Church” who can sustain themselves and their faith as the people of God wherever they are, and not only when they are in “church buildings”.

  I firmly believe that with all the above, God in His infinite mercy will quicken for us the end if the crisis, so that we return to normal life, which may never be the same again as what we had known.

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