by Diocesan Media
Brothers and sisters, the church today is in exile. We live our lives without actively participating in the Eucharistic Sacrifice which is the highest form of our worship. The Christian community has chosen to live its life away from communal prayer in order not to spread this Virus.
This choice does not mean that the Christian community is afraid of sickness or of death. It does not mean that the church is blindly obeying civil authorities. The decision of the church is rooted in the Church’s understanding of the value of human life.
Below is Bishop Jose Luis IMC’s statement, following the “Declaration of national emergency in response to coronavirus” issued by the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini, with directives for the Diocese of Manzini.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Following the “Declaration of national emergency in response to coronavirus” issued by the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini, having met Fr J. Mahazule (Vicar General) and Fr S. Ndwandwe (Bishop’s secretary) I present to you the following decisions to be put into practice in our diocese with immediate effect.
They are written in the spirit of Paul’s words: “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal 5:14), in the spirit of caring for each other, particularly the most vulnerable in our society:
- all our public Sunday celebrations of Holy Mass, as well as public Sunday worship in the absence of a priest, be suspended. Priests will celebrate Mass privately
- churches will remain open for personal prayer;
- stations of the cross, the rosary and other devotional practices are to be done privately and not as a group;
- those celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) should keep at least the required minimum distance from each other;
- meetings and church gatherings of our Catholic Sodalities and similar groups are suspended;
- retreats and workshops should be suspended;
- extra-ordinary safe measures should be taken in anointing the sick and visiting them;
- wedding ceremonies that cannot be postponed must be attended only by immediate family members and limited to 50 people;
- funeral services be confined to the immediate family members and limited to 50 people, taking into consideration all the precautionary measures needed;
- Holy Week celebrations:
- considering the difficulty to limit the number of people at one celebration, Palm Sunday Mass, Holy Thursday Mass, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses will no be celebrated publicly;
- there will be no public celebration of Chrism Mass. Mass of the Oils will be celebrated by the bishop, the Vicar General and the priests serving at the Cathedral. Oils will be available for collection;
- The celebration of baptisms, first communions and confirmations planned for the Easter Vigil is therefore postponed;
- Holy Water fonts at the entrance of the Church should be drained;
- all blessings by placing of hands must be suspended;
- every day at 12.00 noon, wherever we are, we will say the prayer prepared by the Bishops of the continent followed by the prayer of the “angelus”;
- everyone must follow the guidelines of the Department of Health authorities;
- in case of doubt, please contact the diocesan office: +268 3550 0784;
- remember the toll free line 977 designated by the Ministry for Health for reporting alerts of this virus.
During this difficult time your parish will still have to face financial obligations (e.g.: workers, utility bills…). Hope you find ways to continue supporting your parish community financially.
A call to “look deeper”
Having to take and follow these decisions is not easy for any of us. While we know what we cannot do, I invite each one of you to think what it is that can be done. In other words, how can you and me continue to celebrate our being “baptised and sent” during this time?
- let us be messengers of hope, of God’s mercy and unfailing care. In everything we do and say let us preach and witness this good news;
- let us make sure we pray at home as a family maybe fixing times to do it together daily remembering that “for where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them.” (Mt 18:20);
- continue supporting the “Lenten Appeal” collection through your parish or by using the diocesan account at Nedbank (Manzini Branch) Account 040000211957
- weekly, our diocese offers via Whatsapp: Sunday readings, a reflection on the readings and the bishop’s “one minute Gospel”. Make sure you are part of the “Diocesan news” group (7662 0223) and take time to reflect on God’s Word;
- we are hoping to live stream the celebration of Mass on Sunday via Facebook or YouTube for those who are able to access it via internet;
- make good use of social media during this time:
◦ avoid forwarding messages you have not double check the source;
◦ ask yourself if it is really necessary to forward a specific message you have received;
◦ use only reliable sources on information on this topic.
Hope you come up with more ideas.
Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of St Joseph who is the patron of our diocese. Let us ask for his intercession as he was entrusted to care for the baby Jesus and Mary in very difficult times.
Fraternally Yours in Christ,
+ José Luis Ponce de León IMC
Bishop of Manzini
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