The Catholic bishops of Africa have decried the current hardships and tough situations on the continent and its surrounding islands in the last one year.
They attributed it mainly to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic that had ravaged the world saying it had killed millions of people within and outside the church.
“Indeed, this problem is compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc everywhere,” the bishops said in a message to mark 2020 SECAM Day.
The bishops under the aegis of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) said they had decided to postpone their annual celebration for 2020 to Aug. 2 from July 29.
The president of SECAM, Cardinal Philippe Quedraogo, said this in a his message to mark the 2020 SECAM DAY which was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
SECAM, the continental body of all the Catholic bishops from the English, French and Portuguese speaking regions of Africa was founded by Catholic Bishops of Africa on July 29, 1969.
To keep alive this historic and memorable event, 29th July of every year is usually commemorated as SECAM Day, he said.
Quedraogo said, “The pandemic has so far killed millions around the world including Africans and has affected the Clergy, religious and the lay faithful alike.”
He added that different measures had been adopted to contain the spread of the disease, including prayers, but new cases had continued to soar in many African countries as much as around the world.
“Moreover, a recent report from the Caritas International indicates that Africa is the worst affected of all continents in terms of COVID-19 effects.
“There are cases of food shortages, due to the lockdowns, thousands have lost jobs and small businesses have been destroyed.
“The diversity of pre-existing disasters including floods, drought, locust invasion, poor harvest are real and also constitute a serious challenge.”
The prelate said that the situation had given rise to agitations and the possibility by the people to conclude that the pandemic was and still is a punishment for the sinful nature of man.
“As we already said in our Pentecost Message, if we experience pain or suffering, God participates in it in order to overcome it.
“God will not allow any evil in his works, unless in his omnipotence and goodness, he is able to bring forth good out of evil,” the cardinal said.
The cardinal also said that the pandemic had exposed how vulnerable we are as humans, irrespective, of colour or status.
“It is a time for all Africans to reactivate the value of solidarity that has shaped our worldview and traditional society in order to turn our economies around.
“We urge people around the world to be courageous and not be in despair as we continue to pray and wait for God’s time.
“We also pray for an end to violence and killings everywhere around the world and call on world leaders for immediate action,” they said.
The SECAM president added that the SECAM Day had always been set aside for all members of the Church-Family of God in Africa to thank God for the gift of mother Africa, for the gift of one another and for the gift of the Christian faith.
He said that it had always provided an opportunity to pray for the well-being of SECAM, communion and solidarity amongst the bishops, the clergy, the religious and lay faithful in.
”In line with the decision taken at the Plenary Assembly of SECAM in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in July 2013, the Day is an occasion to speak about the Symposium.
“It is also to enable Catholics throughout the Continent and the Islands become more informed about its existence, work and mission, and invite them to identify with, and support SECAM.
“This year 2020 marks one year since the impressive celebration of the Golden Jubilee of SECAM in Kampala, Uganda, the land of heroic African Martyrs,” he said.
The bishops said that the Jubilee year (2019) of the association coincided with the Silver Jubilee of the First Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
“During the silver jubilee, the African Synod Fathers chose not only to define the Church as God’s Family but also to be a guiding principle for the Evangelization of the Continent.
“During the study as well as the plenary sessions in Kampala last year, we SECAM members reflected on how far we had gone with our evangelizing mission, where we need to go and how to make the future even better.
“We also bemoaned the plight of the majority of our people,” he said.
He said that the bishops also resolved at the plenary sessions to include making the golden jubilee a springboard for more profound evangelization.
He added that they also promised to intensify the commitment to the vision of the founding fathers of SECAM which was centred on promoting organic pastoral solidarity and communion amongst the members and being more proactive in prophetic mission.