COVID Christmas: Seychelles' Christians worship behind masks, grieve pandemic losses
A specially mounted manger depicting the nativity scene of Christmas, at a Roman Catholic church in Seychelles. (Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - For a second consecutive year, Christians in Seychelles will celebrate Christmas among the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as one church leader recalled families grieving "the too many deaths" caused by the virus.
Once again, believers will attend Mass celebrated in their respective parishes amid prevention measures set up against COVID-19, including the wearing of masks, sanitising hands and maintaining social and physical distancing.
In his Christmas message, Catholic Bishop Alain Harel said that "scientists tell us 300,000 years ago that humans set out working... A walk to eat and to discover; out of necessity and out of a desire to know! Man has crossed hills and mountains, rivers and seas and thus inhabited the different continents and distant islands."
|Harel is calling on Christians to walk together on Christmas night towards the stable. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
He said that "we have withered and cultivated the land, built bridges and brought diversity to life with different languages, wisdom and cultures. During this walk, we have often gone astray, we have shown predators, erecting barriers and towers of Babel."
The Catholic Bishop is calling on Christians to walk together on Christmas night towards the stable.
"Let us offer to the Lord whatever offering he likes: give him our lives, let us bring to the manger each of our families, the Church-family and the Seychellois family-society. From the bottom of our hearts let us express our gratitude. We too, leave and continue our synodal march in the heart of the Seychellois society by letting ourselves be guided by Jesus so that, through more communions and participation, we are missionaries of what we have heard and seen on this Christmas night," he added.
Harel wishes "Merry Christmas Seychellois brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters from elsewhere, you who work or who are on vacation in our archipelago."
On his side, Right Reverend James Wong, asked "How do we celebrate Christmas this year in the COVID-19 pandemic? It would most probably be one in the present-day history when we are encouraged to celebrate the Christmas season in its essence, in its simplicity."
Wong said that people, in Seychelles and all around the world, are grieving for the too many deaths caused by the virus and that the usual Christmas happiness and cheerfulness that people have been familiar with is not possible this year.
|Archbishop Wong recalled that the Christmas story is one of simplicity. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
The Archbishop said that although the epidemic has torn apart the social fabric and caused unemployment, hunger, chaos and dissension "our celebration of Christmas should not be dampened by COVID!"
"Let us by all the means we have at our disposal, spread more hope, peace, joy and love this season! Should we use the telephone, letters, internet or social media? Let us be more creative in sharing the Good News," said Wong.
The Archbishop recalled that the Christmas story is one of simplicity.
"It is a heart-warming reminder of the true reason of the season. This year has been difficult for all of us but we cling to Hope. In the midst of all of the confusion and fear that the pandemic has brought, God is with us, Emmanuel has always been and will always be with us. Jesus is the light of the world!" he added.
"In a world of hurt and death, my dear fellow pilgrims on our earthly journey, the event of the birth of the Prince of peace allows us to find comfort, lift our heads in hope, and catch a glimpse in deep faith of the triumph of life and love in the birth of Jesus. This is the good news of great joy for all people in Seychelles and in our beautiful world," said Wong.
In wishing a blessed and peaceful Christmas, Wong also called on believers "to let the Lord Jesus continue to dwell in our hearts, may our lives reflect the presence of Christ, and may our homes radiate God's peace. With abundance of faith, hope and love, we will all get through this crisis together."