Screenshot of Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore reading out his pastoral letter on Catholic TV. The letter asked to cancel all liturgical gatherings in the archdiocese after Covid-19 cases began to spiral for the third time. (UCA News)
Pakistan's Lahore archdiocese has canceled all liturgical gatherings as the third wave of deadly Covid-19 pandemic hit the country just a week ahead of Easter.Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore in a pastoral letter on March 22 asked his priests and nuns to cancel all liturgical gatherings and follow government guidelines to check the spread of the disease.The pastoral letter was issued hours after the federal government banned all cultural and religious gatherings and shut down shrines and cinemas in a bid to contain the spreading virus. “You are also advised to follow Standard Operating Procedures, maintain social distancing and if it is necessary to go out, make sure they use a mask all the time,” Archbishop Shaw said in his pastoral letter.He also asked to cancel or cut down pastoral activities in parishes “for your own protection and become the source of good health for others."
“May all mighty God protect us all from the Coronavirus, so that we may prepare ourselves to celebrate Easter joyfully,” the archbishop said.
Pandemic cases began to spiral in the Muslims dominated country just days ahead of Christian Holy Week that begins with Plasm Sunday on March 28. The prayerful week commemorating the passion of Christ concludes with the celebration of Jesus' resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The restrictions have forced the Church to limit public liturgical programs just as in the past year.
The government tightened lockdown measures as the country began to report more than 3,000 Covid-19 cases for the fifth consecutive day on March 21.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and first lady Bushra Bibi were also tested positive for Covid-19 last week. Khan is presently self-isolating at home.
The Catholic Church in Pakistan continues its effort to fight the pandemic, particularly in the villages.
In January Caritas Pakistan launched an initiative called "Water, Sanitation and Hygiene" (WASH) in remote areas of Pakistan.
The Church agency’s Hyderabad unit distributed masks and conducted an awareness session on March 9 at Jughto Bheel village in the southern Sindh province.
“Our volunteers are trying to highlight simple things like WASH, good hygiene, and hand washing with clean water in underdeveloped areas, where people still consider pandemic as a rumor,” said Amjad Gulzar, executive director Caritas Pakistan.
“Such groups are the biggest challenge for our field teams raising awareness,” Gulzar told UCA News.