New Year Message from the Cardinal

As I sit down to write this message, I cannot ignore the event that dominated 2020: the global Covid-19 pandemic. The feeling everywhere is that we can’t wait to start a new, and better year.

But, apart from the fact that the virus is not going to magically disappear as the clock chimes midnight on 31 December, it has taught us some valuable lessons.

Covid-19 has reminded us of our capacity for human love, as we witnessed the amazing heroism of our doctors and health care workers, who put their own lives at risk to help others. And perhaps in some way, the pandemic has forced us to take a step back and change the self centred path that we have been on for so long.

For years we have been fooled into thinking that technology has created a ‘global village’. That people around the world are no longer separated by physical distance and that we are becoming one community of people on earth. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

Instead of fostering universal love and understanding as we explored opportunities to learn about others’ beliefs and cultures, social media seems to have made us more intolerant. It has given us a ‘voice’ with which to attack others who don’t think or behave the same way we do. Many people use a rude and hurtful tone on social media that they would be ashamed to use face-to-face. Racism dominates the headlines; hate speech and insults fly everywhere; and the mainstream media is quick to incite others to jump into disputes and stir up more dissent and hatred.

What has happened to our ability to love each other
as our Lord asked us to do?

“Me first”
You only have to drive through our city’s streets to experience the ‘me first’ mentality. We think of ourselves first and are determined to get ahead or be first in the queue, regardless of who we push aside or tread on. Old fashioned courtesy seems to be just that: out of fashion. And yet it costs so little to step on the brake and allow someone else into the traffic ahead of yourself, or hold the door open for the next person instead of allowing it to slam in their face.

Human beings have become incredibly selfish. Our culture of promoting individual interests weakens the feelings of belonging to a community, where the good of everyone is paramount. But, the Coronavirus has gone some way to restoring our need to consider everyone in our community rather than just ourselves. By community, I mean not just our own neighbourhood, but the whole community of the human race on earth.

The virus made it obvious that we are connected to every person in the world … that the actions of people elsewhere could affect us too. The most obvious example is travellers from abroad carrying the virus into our country. But we also learned that we could benefit from successful strategies developed elsewhere in the world. In many ways the virus brought us closer together, as we united to fight a common enemy.

Caring for the vulnerable
We were forced to consider how our own selfish actions could impact on others, in particular the aged who are most vulnerable to the disease. Finally, a sector of the population that is often sidelined and virtually invisible, became what it should always have been: worthy of consideration and protection. We wore masks not to protect ourselves, but to protect them.

Reducing waste and consumerism
During lockdown in our country, shops and restaurants were closed and the only items available to purchase were those essential to health and wellbeing. Suddenly ‘retail therapy’ was off the agenda, and by the time restrictions finally lifted, many of us had realised that we could manage on a lot less. And, as we learned to appreciate what we have and “do without”, we were able to relate more closely to those who have to do without everything – including enough food to sustain life.

This year in particular, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and generosity towards the poor and suffering people we serve on the Zulu Missions. And I want to thank you sincerely for supporting us as never before.

Your gifts have not only made a huge impact, they also show your willingness to acknowledge that those who are poor and marginalised are just as valuable, and have the same right to human dignity as anyone else.

Could this be the start of building a global fraternity where we support and help one another, as Pope Francis envisages in his Encyclical letter on fraternity and social friendship, Fratelli Tutti? Where everyone matters and where the needs and aspirations of all people are met, and no one’s life is less important than another.

As the Pope so eloquently puts it, we are all, “children of the same earth, which is our common home, each of bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with her or her own voice, brothers and sisters all.”

As we look towards a new year, and the opportunity to begin building the world we want to live in, let us join together with Holy Father in this special prayer:

Lord, Father of our human family,
you created all human beings equal in dignity:
pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit
and inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter,
dialogue, justice and peace.
Move us to create healthier societies
and a more dignified world,
a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war.

May our hearts be open
to all the peoples and nations of the earth.
May we recognize the goodness and beauty
that you have sown in each of us,
and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects,
and shared dreams. Amen.

Be assured that I will continue to keep you in my prayers, as I hope you keep my people in yours. Please click here should you wish to renew your support now, before the new year begins.

May you have a blessed 2021

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