Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - "Do not be afraid: this message, given by Archangel Gabriel to the shepherds, gives us good news, namely that God loves His people especially those who are in suffering, in fear, are powerless or marginalized": This is the message that characterizes Christmas 2020 in Pakistan, which is currently experiencing a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, as Archbishop Joseph Arshad, at the head of the diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, told Agenzia Fides.
"Due to the Covid-19 pandemic - writes the Archbishop in a message addressed to the faithful and sent to Fides - we see that people in our environment are currently living a life full of fears, difficulties and challenges. The coronavirus has not only affected people's health, but it has also hit their lives hard because of the economic and financial crisis. People have lost their jobs, or work for low wages, there is despair, they feel helpless. Food prices, objects and other basic necessities are rising, and many have lost their loved ones".
Faced with this situation of suffering," let us contemplate the Crib of Jesus Christ as a symbol of hope. Be messengers of hope, peace and happiness for other faithful, especially the poor and needy. We can be a source of joy and happiness for others", wrote Archbishop Arshad.
Pakistan is currently experiencing a second wave of Covid-19 and until yesterday, December 27, it recorded 471 thousand cases of contagion, with about 9,800 deaths. In such a situation, Christmas celebrations were still held in churches, in strict compliance with anti-Covid measures, such as distancing, sanitation and the use of face masks. As Fides learned, the churches - given the limited capacity of the faithful - have multiplied the Eucharistic celebrations on Christmas day, thus allowing a greater number of faithful to be present and celebrate the Birth of the Redeemer.
The Bishop of Faisalabad, Indrias Rehmat, in his Christmas message said: "Let us focus on the message of the Angel's message: Do not be afraid. This was the good news announced 2000 years ago. Today in Pakistan schools and universities are closed, restaurants and the playground are empty, and office and activity hours are limited. We cannot visit our relatives, we are afraid to go to weddings and funerals, we go to church with the fear of contracting the coronavirus. This Christmas, let us keep our faith in the Lord. Let us live with hope in Christ and pray that the Child Jesus, the Redeemer of the world, will completely heal the wounded world".
Mgr. Samson Shukardin OFM, Bishop of Hyderabad, in an interview with Fides, said: "We firmly believe that this Christmas will bring us new hope. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of people are still suffering and desperate after losing their jobs, their normal lifestyle and most importantly their loved ones. Let usb e united in prayer as one universal family. May this Christmas and the new year fill us with the love of God and drive away the fears of the pandemic".
Archbishop Evarist Pinto, Archbishop Emeritus of Karachi, said in his Christmas message: "We are living in a time marked by loneliness during this pandemic period. But we believe that God never abandons His people and He is with us. Let us stay in touch with one another through our faith and our prayers and spread the message of peace and hope of Christmas". (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 28/12/2020)