By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, President of Caritas South Africa, and Archbishop of Durban, has expressed what — he is convinced—is essential amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, especially given its delicate context and history.

He did so speaking at Caritas’ Internationalis virtual press conference on the occasion of the launch of its Annual Report, on July 16, 2020.

Caritas Internationalis was drawing attention to the consequences of the economic sanctions in the Middle East and calls for the cancellation of international debt.

Speaking along with the African cardinal, were Caritas Internationalis representatives: Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, President of Caritas Internationalis; Aloysius John, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis; and Rita Rhayem, Director of Caritas Lebanon.

The meeting was held via Zoom.

Looking at the pandemic, Cardinal Napier called for a filling a gap of ignorance with practical knowledge, where one explains: how Covid-19 is spread; how it affects the human body; what simple safety measures can be be taken to avoid being infected and, just as important, passing on the infection.

Almost everywhere in Africa, he underscored, the major restraint to effective action against Covid-19 is the inability to access the know-how, material and other resources known to be effective in dealing with the pandemic.

“For me, the most important question, given the nature, vision and mission of Caritas, both Internationalis, Caritas Africa and Caritas South Africa,” the Archbishop of Durban said, “is what the Church is called to do, and what it can do, in fact in this situation.”

Stating his belief that the Church can do “an enormous amount to close the gap in Africa’s ability to fight off the virus,” he admitted the challenge to the Church is to help remove the following elements

Lack of Information;

Lack of Expertise, including knowledgable people able to apply that know-how;

Lack of Resources, facilities to make, distribute & use fruits of information;

Lack of Personnel to use available material resources.

Lack of Economic strength to apply know-how & authority.

Cardinal Napier then specified a second key area where the Church “can and must intervene,” namely in changing the nature of the relationship between Africa & World Community.

Some of these specific changes where intervention would be helpful, he listed, would be that from colonization to political independence; From political independence to economic self-determination; From the theory of self-determination to real and effective action against Covid-19.

“A third and most vital area of remedial action, which the Church can take up and run with,” he said, “is to work towards making Africa self reliant.”

This, Cardinal Napier said, would involve a “sharing of New Resources, in particular International Solidarity, whose Aim & purpose is so aptly summed up by St John Paul II as the ‘Globalisation of Solidarity.’”

Cardinal Napier concluded thanking Caritas for its assistance in South Africa and saying to all present and following: “God Bless You.”

Below is his full intervention:
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AFRICA & the Covid-19 Pandemic

One of the main issues of concern being highlighted by the Covid-19 Pandemic is the parlous state of the relationship between the countries of Africa and the international community. That is particularly true of the former colonisers of the Continent.

That relationship is marked by the gigantic gap in the levels of knowledge and information, as well as expertise and the means to respond to and fight off Covid-19. In most cases the relationship has mutated from colonial occupation and control to quasi-freedom which is characterised by near total dependence on the former occupying power for virtually everything.

For example, most African countries are still handicapped by Europe and the West holding them back from taking their place in the world community as worthy and equal partners. That handicap is international debt, which even in the best of times is a severe restraint on Africa’s growth and development.

While there has no doubt been a sometimes exemplary willingness and readiness to share expert knowledge and information about the disease, there is still a huge problem of communicating the requisite knowledge and information to people who are living in a very different social and cultural context. What I have in mind here is specifically, how Covid-19 is spread; how it affects the human body; what simple safety measures can be be taken to avoid being infected and, just as important, passing on the infection.

Almost everywhere in Africa the major restraint to effective action against Covid-19 is the inability to access the knowhow, material and other resources known to be effective in dealing with the pandemic.

For me the most important question, given the nature, vision and mission of Caritas, both Internationalis, Caritas Africa and Caritas South Africa is what the Church is called to do, and what it can do, in fact in this situation.

I believe the Church can do an enormous amount to close the gap in Africa’s ability to fight off the virus. THE challenge to the Church is to help remove:
a) Lack of Information;
b) Lack of Expertise, including knowledgable people able to apply that knowhow;
c) Lack of Resources, facilities to make, distribute & use fruits of information;
d) Lack of Personnel to use available material resources.
e) Lack of Economic strength to apply knowhow & authority.

A second key area where the Church can and must intervene is in changing the nature of the relationship between Africa & World Community:
From colonisation to political independence
From political independence to economic self-determination
From the theory of self-determination to real and effective action against Covid-19.

A third and most vital area of remedial action, which the Church can take up and run with, is to work towards making Africa self reliant is: Sharing of New Resources, in particular International Solidarity, whose Aim & purpose is so aptly summed up by St John Paul II as the “Globalisation of Solidarity.”

Many, even in the secular world, have adopted the language of globalisation of solidarity, so it is time now for the Church to show us how to take the steps to apply it in this life-changing period of history!

Sincere thanks to Caritas Internationalis for responding so promptly to Sr Maria de Lurdes’s appeal to Caritas Internationalis for help in feeding the Migrants, Refugees and undocumented Persons in six Dioceses of South Africa!
God bless you all.+ Wilfrid Cardinal Napier OFM
Archbishop of Durban
President of Caritas South Africa.

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