On the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, the Apostolic Administrator of Makeni Diocese in Sierra Leone, Bishop Natale Paganelli, has made a passionate appeal to Sierra Leoneans to stay the course of peace, avoid tribal divisions and embrace dialogue.
Paul Samasumo and Festus Tarawalie – Vatican City
On the occasion of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Fatima, Patroness of the Diocese of Makeni, Bishop Natale Paganelli, a Xaverian Missionary, who is the Titular Bishop of Gadiaufala and Apostolic Administrator of Makeni in Sierra Leone made a passionate appeal pleading with Sierra Leoneans to embrace lasting peace.
Our Lady of Fatima, Patroness of the Diocese
Speaking in the Makeni Cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, Bishop Paganelli announced that due to COVID-19 only a few representatives were physically present during the Mass. He thanked the local Radio Maria for carrying the Eucharistic celebration live, thus enabling the faithful in the diocese to follow the event from their homes.
“This year, only a few of us are here. But we represent the whole Diocese. All the Diocese of Makeni is spiritually present in this Cathedral. They are praying with us.” He continued, “This is a special occasion to pray to Mary, our Mother to protect our diocese, our beloved country and the whole world from this deadly virus,” said Bishop Paganelli.
We defeated Ebola through solidarity
“Only five years ago, we experienced the tragedy of the Ebola virus. As a country, we were able to defeat the virus. But the price was very high. Thousands of our brothers and sisters lost their lives. The country ended up with a severe financial crisis that is still conditioning the lives of many Sierra Leoneans to the present day. This time, the pandemic is more dangerous. The coronavirus is an enemy which we do not know where it is hiding. We are full of fear,” said Bishop Paganelli.
Climate of fear generating division in the country
Sadly, the Bishop observed that the atmosphere of fear was resulting in tensions and violence in the country. He appealed for peace and an immediate end to hate messages circulating on social media.
“Unfortunately, the coronavirus has not only brought fear, poverty and death but has also reinforced divisions in the country,” said the Apostolic Administrator of Makeni Diocese.
The Bishop called on the government to speedily investigate recent riots.
At least fourteen people were reported killed while others were injured in a prison riot in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. Some blamed it on prisoners attempting to escape from the prison when word went round that a newly arrived prisoner had contracted COVID-19. Others pointed to heightened political tensions in the country due to the arrest of members of the main opposition party, including a former Minister of Defence and of Internal Affairs. They were being held at the same prison.
It is the poor who bear the results of our madness
Bishop Paganelli further said Sierra Leoneans had suffered enough and did not want another conflict fuelled by those who thrive on chaos and division.
“Our history has been blighted by tribalism, revenge, and civil war while the poor and the vulnerable bear the brunt of our madness. I condemn anyone, any institution, political parties that are inciting and advocating chaos and mayhem. I condemn arbitrary arrests and detentions without the due process of law. The rule of law should prevail at all times. I appeal to political parties not to fan the flames of tribalism, regionalism, revenge and division but (implore) them to act responsibly in promoting the common good. I call upon all people of goodwill to engage in responsible dialogue regarding matters of state, security and the welfare of all Sierra Leoneans. If we want to build a solid nation, we have to seek the common good through justice and peace. There is not any other way. Look for justice and peace! We are brothers and sisters, children of the same God. I encourage you as your pastor in faith to bring hope, life and justice in our communities,” pleaded Bishop Paganelli, adding that every life is sacred and must be respected and protected.
Bishop Paganelli also prayed that Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, would bless and intercede for all Sierra Leoneans.