Updated: June 01, 2021 04:44 AM GMT
People ride their bicycles during a lockdown imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Kathmandu on May 31. (Photo: Prakash Mathema/AFP)
Catholics in Nepal have joined prayers, penance and fasting for the end of Covid-19 as the pandemic wreaks havoc in the Himalayan nation.
Thousands of Catholics, confined at home due to a strict lockdown, participated in a live Mass broadcast from the bishop’s house, virtual Divine Mercy and adoration, rosary recitation and Eucharistic adoration on May 31.
The day-long prayer and fasting for divine deliverance were in response to an appeal from Bishop Paul Simick, the apostolic vicar of Nepal, on May 18 when he invited Catholic priests, men and women religious and laity to pray intensely while following all necessary coronavirus precautions.
"We are well aware of the devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected the entire world, including Nepal. In recent weeks, Nepal has witnessed a sudden increase in the number of new infections and deaths," Bishop Simick said in a pastoral letter.
"In these moments of fear, anguish, panic and pain caused by the rapid spread of Covid-19 infections, as Christians we turn to our Good Shepherd, who is our stronghold and refuge: as the Psalm says, 'Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life' (Psalm 23.6).”
The bishop also urged each community, parish and association to organize internal online prayer services to allow everyone to participate.
We ask the patroness of our vicariate that, with her powerful intercession, we can free ourselves from this deadly virus
"We seek refuge under the protection of Our Mother Mary, we invoke health for the sick, we ask the patroness of our vicariate that, with her powerful intercession, we can free ourselves from this deadly virus," Bishop Simick said.
The Nepalese chapter of Couples for Christ, an international Catholic lay ecclesial movement for family life ministries, urged its members to join prayers, penance and fasting
A Catholic from capital Kathmandu told UCA News that he and his family participated in the prayer and fasting from home amid the lockdown in the city.
Hindu-majority Nepal has only about 8,000 Catholics among its estimated population of 28 million, but the World Database of Christians estimates there are 3-5 million Protestant and evangelical Christians in the country.
The nation was hit hard by the second wave of Covid-19 in mid-April and its fragile healthcare system collapsed. Nepal had recorded 561,302 cases and 7,386 deaths as of May 31.
Hospitals have struggled to get beds and oxygen for the overwhelming number of patients. At a daily rate of 6.51 deaths per million, Nepal has the worst death scenario in South Asia.
Health experts say the official figures are gross underestimates, warning that actual cases and deaths are several times higher. Media reports suggest Nepal has been affected by the Covid-19 catastrophe in neighboring India and is paying the price for miserable unpreparedness and a sluggish response despite the havoc just across the border.
The official figures are still devastating for Nepal. According to English daily Nepali Times, the country has the world’s second-highest bi-weekly increase in deaths at 291 percent and the highest national test positivity rate of 40 percent.
The government of Prime Minister K.P. Oli has been blamed for worsening the crisis by prioritizing politics over the pandemic
Nepal conducts only 713 tests per million people, contact tracing is virtually non-existent, less than 2 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and mask wearing is at less than 65 percent, it added.
The government of Prime Minister K.P. Oli has been blamed for worsening the crisis by prioritizing politics over the pandemic. Nepal’s bicameral parliament has been dissolved twice by Oli and President Bidya Devi Bhandari in just two months. New elections have been announced for November.
Oli’s ruling Nepal Communist Party has struggled to hold onto power amid strong pressure from opposition parties to unseat his government that came to power in 2018.
Authorities have enforced lockdowns in various parts of the country since April 29 to curb new infections. In Kathmandu Valley, the worst-hit region close to the border with Uttar Pradesh state of India, the lockdown has been extended to June 3.