Mbabane (Agenzia Fides) - "Announcing this special time of grace for our diocese I never thought we would face months of it in a full or partial lock-down. We planned special events thinking everything would be as usual. It was not. It is still not and we are all unable to talk about the future", said His Exc. Mgr. José Luis Ponce de León IMC, Bishop of Manzini (Eswatini ex Swaziland), in the Pastoral Letter dedicated to the Covid-19 crisis.
The event to which the Bishop refers is the Extraordinary Missionary Year (EMY), which started in October 2019 and will end in October 2020 (see Fides, 25/9/2019), whose celebration has been suspended during the months of confinement imposed to stop the pandemic.
"It is the context that has changed, not our call. We remain ‘baptised and sent’", says Mgr. Ponce de León recalling the motto of the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019. The EMY has not taken a break "until we go back to normal. There might not be a going back to normal in the future and we will then be called to be missionaries in new ways", underlines the Bishop of Manzini.
Mgr. Ponce de León points out that "Our diocese quickly reacted to the new situation: Once the world was affected by the virus we started our daily prayer. Holy Masses became available on our diocesan YouTube channel, accompanied by daily podcasts of reflection and prayer".
Mgr. Ponce de León praises the solidarity initiatives launched in his diocese: “Protective masks have been distributed to parishes and projects have been organized to support the poorest. Our parishes also looked for ways to be close to each one of you through the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, writing down the names on the benches of the church, WhatsApp groups, distributing food to the poor…".
The Bishop stresses that every little gesture (such as wearing a mask) is a gesture of love for others: "We also show our being Christians by caring for each other in the most simple things like keeping social distance, wearing masks, washing our hands, being careful of what we share on social media... Do not underestimate any of this, remember Naaman when he was asked by the prophet Elisha to wash seven times in the river Jordan (2 Kings 5: 1 – 14). Every little act of love counts!".
The crisis caused by the Coronavirus, however, has accentuated social inequalities: "Wash your hands we are also told, but what do we do when there is no water?", underlines Mgr. Ponce de León. "The same slogans given to protect us have revealed the weakness of our personal and social fabric; What about all the self employed people, selling in the streets whose only income is what they themselves are able to make on a day to support their families…?", Archbishop Ponce de León asks.
The Bishop of Manzini concludes inviting to Christian hope: "The Lord’s promise to be with us and the gift of His Spirit does not expire. Let us not live the present waiting to return to the past. Let us look at the present and to the future and, with the same faith, hope, love and enthusiasm, look for new answers to new challenges. It is us who, today, once again, having been baptised are sent by Jesus. May God bless us and Mary our Mother protect us". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 17/6/2020)