BISHOP HYACINTH’S SUBMISSION ON COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND THE LOCKDOWN OF CHURCHES: IS THE GOVERNMENT PERSECUTING THE CHURCH?
It would be wrong to attribute the closure of churches or centers of worship to mean some lapse of faith or lack of commitment to uphold our religious belief in the face of government’s selective identification of what is meant to be essential duties in this period of COVID 19 pandemic. I did not see this as an affront on religious practice and prayer. Rather I see the statement in relative terms. By this I mean, any duty that would further enhance the full realization of the objective for which the closure of borders is imposed as well as to enforce social distance option is what they consider as essential duty here.
The closure of churches does not mean that we are told not to pray. The strength of religion resides in our faith and prayer. We are not requested not to pray. Afterwards Jesus also directed us thus: “But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”. Mt. 6:6. Besides, when David experienced the pestilence he did not dare the forces of nature until he was ultimately overwhelmed”. When David had the option of facing the pestilence he said: “David said to Gad, “I am in distress. Let me fall, I pray, into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are very great. Let me not fall into the hand of man.” Chronicles 21:13 (2Sam 24:14).
Lev. 13: 59; Numbers: 5:2 and Chronicles 26:21 – in these instances God himself instructed Moses to keep in isolation those who had contacted leprosy to avoid infecting others. In Exodus 12 the people of Israel were supposed to keep among other things two last instructions, to mark their door posts with the blood and to remain indoors until the angel of death had past. Corona virus at this moment seems to be the angel of death.
Also Jesus did not jump down from the parapet to show that he had faith when he was tempted Luke 4:9. There is time for everything. Indeed, this is time for us to pray from the depth of our being and very personally too so that God will hear our cry for help (Ps 130:1) or “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip (Ps 121: 1-3).
It would be proper to understand that our worship is not to be seen as a duty (essential duty?). Rather, it is a filial expression of love for Our Father in heaven. It is reported that in South Korea a certain religious sect that refused to obey this rule of keeping social or safe distance from one another helped to astronomically spread this virus. God will always help those who try to help themselves. Our little efforts in this sense are prayers in themselves.
+Hyacinth O. Egbebo, MSP.
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Bomadi,
Delta State, Nigeria.