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Open letter to the members of the Catholic Church and to all people of good will in Guyana

There are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor.13:13)

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ; a very special feast in our tradition. This feast takes us into the mystery of God inhabiting the human state and through this act of love opening ways for us to have a fuller share and communion in the divine. In this feast we also celebrate the Body of Christ which is the people of God. We celebrate the many and diverse expressions of gifts and life that make up the body. St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor.12:12 ff) gives a beautiful analogy of the human body to the body that is the people of God; the many parts and functions of the body working in harmony, in mutual dependency, each part sustaining life in the others, bringing about a whole in celebration of life, reflecting the divine. It is a wonderful image of what a people can and ought to be.

You, the people of God of this nation Guyana, in the civil domain have been on hold since 21st November 2018. From that time until the present the major political parties have had much to say, the Courts have spoken, diplomats and observers have added their perspective, the Elections Commission has carried out its mandate. Local groups and individuals have given their views. What stands out in all of this is what you the people of God of this nation have shown. You have waited with patience and trust, you have admirably done your part in turning out to the polls and casting your vote. Over ten thousand persons, from among you, have supervised the voting procedure at the 2,239 polling stations and done so in a responsible manner – so proved by the statements of polls and recount. In spite of the uncertainties that have been proffered, you the people as a body have held the body together. We give thanks to God for this.

Added to the matters of governance you also had to contend with the threat of the Coronavirus, COVID-19. Here too you, the people of God, have risen to the call to keep the threat of the virus at bay. I have seen the very noticeable efforts on the part of many to wear their masks, to wash hands and sanitize, to keep distances and minimize gathering. This, I am sure, has contributed to the relatively low rates of infection from the virus. This we must sustain in order to overcome the threat. I have heard of the many positive and creative initiatives of people working at home, accessing lessons on line, reaching out through streaming and Zoom to keep in touch and to offer encouragement. Reports have come to me of many who have been celebrating their faith in their homes and in their families and also with the wider community via various digital avenues. Guyana is the home for many faiths and many who profess and celebrate their faith in their daily course of life. It is wonderful to see.

We know that not everyone has fully grasped the gravity of the threat of COVID-19 and not complied fully with the sacrifice that we are all called to make in order to protect each other. Let us continue to reach out to that part of the body and draw them into the mainstream of life and love. There are reports that within some of our homes where relationships have been strained, more so with the lockdown and stay home requirements and where children are at home from school, that there are instances of violent behaviour. This is a very troubling reality for us and leaves terrible wounds and scars on the body of God’s people. At present and in the aftermath of COVID-19 an all out and concerted effort needs to be sustained to ensure that the fullest respect is shown to all by all in an effort to remove this scourge of violence, in all its forms, from our midst altogether.

You the people, the body of this nation, have stood tall and firm through the whole period during which the nation was processing matters to do with governance and the threat of a pandemic. What you have done gives very positive testimony of this nation. You have kept faith, sustained hope and looked out for each other in love. From this very solid position you can now turn to that part of the body, the leadership duly elected, made up of government and opposition, with legitimate expectations to have them honor your vote and act in diligent service and oversight of all matters pertaining to your well-being. You, the people of this nation, and how you have shown yourselves, are gifts in the hands of those elected to govern. We pray that the whole body will forge a way forward, coming together as a whole – One People, One Nation One Destiny – marked with the enduring gifts of faith, hope and love.

+ Francis Alleyne OSB
Bishop of Georgetown

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