As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to reach further around the world, we’re in touch with our partners overseas to help and support in any way we can. Fr Gordon Rees, Missio’s National Director in South Africa, shares with us the difficulties of reaching those most in need during lockdown, and stresses how vital Missio and the Pope’s Emergency Fund are.
As in many countries around the world, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa is hitting the poorest people very hard.
The faithful are struggling
‘The closing of churches and suspension of all Eucharistic and liturgical services for the public has left many people struggling to maintain their own spiritual growth. This is despite various Bishops and religious institutions trying to encourage the faithful, helping them to place this experience within a wider religious context of the suffering people of God,’ says Fr Gordon.
Various Church activities have continued through social media, however Fr Gordon shares:
‘This pandemic has laid bare the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged once again. Those with access to social media can still benefit from the Church’s continued mission, while others can’t.’
Rising numbers suggest things will get worse
The rising number of cases of COVID-19 foreshadow further hardship. ‘We have been in lockdown close to 70 days,’ Fr Gordon told Missio.
‘The numbers were very low at first, but now they are rising rapidly and it appears that all this time was not used productively to prepare for the peak. So much unemployment, bankruptcy, poverty, hunger… We are a broken country with no capital to fall back on’.
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Reaching the most vulnerable
‘Wherever we can, we continue the social mission of the Church, like feeding the hungry,’ explains Fr Gordon.
‘The Church has always played an important role in caring for the poorest, the migrants, undocumented refugees. During lockdown the sad reality is that the Government’s feeding schemes are not reaching the majority who live from hand to mouth. Moreover, there is no real provision for those who are without documents: refugees, migrants and the homeless.’
The Emergency Fund is making all the difference
‘A number of Dioceses have requested help from the Pope Francis COVID-19 Emergency Fund, to help deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes. Many people are starving because they have to stay at home, and can’t access Government feeding and relief packages,’ says Fr Gordon.
Thanks to your generosity, help is reaching some people in desperate need. Fr Gordon shares some updates on there the fund is making all the difference.
‘The Diocese of Polokwane has been able to make up some food parcels and distribute them to the most needy people in the area.
The Diocese of Rustenburg is helping destitute people and undocumented refugees and migrants. They have distributed food hampers and maize.
The Church has been working hard to help homeless and poor people during the lockdown. Church structures are housing elderly, disabled and sick people.
Finally, the Nunciature has also taken the initiative to help the needy in these very trying times, making a significant amount of money available for the distribution of food parcels.’
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In times of crisis, the poorest people are put at a particular disadvantage. But our Church, together with Missio and Pope Francis’ emergency fund, continues to do everything in its power to reach all those in need.
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