Kabul (Agenzia Fides) - "In Afghanistan we are still in full lockdown. The Italian Embassy in Kabul continues to be closed and consequently access to the church continues to be blocked, which is situated within the diplomatic headquarters. It must be said that most of the faithful left Afghanistan at the beginning of the epidemic. The nuns have remained who, although unable to attend Mass, can count on the Eucharistic presence in their communities". This is what Fr. Giovanni Scalese, Barnabite priest, responsible for the Missio sui iuris in Afghanistan tells Agenzia Fides.
In the Asian Country the infections from Covid-19 had spread very slowly until a few weeks ago, but now the pandemic is gradually taking hold: there are over thirteen thousand cases and more than 200 dead, in a territory characterized by an unstable political situation and poor health system. Social distancing, therefore, remains an essential measure.
The chapel of the Italian Embassy in Kabul - the only Catholic church in Afghan territory - had suspended the celebrations on 23 March, until a date to be destined. Schools are also closed, such as the one run by the sisters of the Pro Children Association of Kabul. In this regard, Father Matteo Sanavio, priest of the Congregation of Rogationist Fathers and representative of the Association, explains to Fides: "Due to the pandemic, school in Kabul did not reopen its doors after the winter holidays. One of the nuns, Sr. Shehnaz managed to return to her homeland, Pakistan before the lockdown, for treatment because she suffered from bad pneumonia. Now she has finally recovered and is waiting for the airports to reopen to return to Afghanistan. The other two stayed at home in Kabul and did charity in discretion, helping many poor families. We have, however, received help and we hope that the school will reopen soon". The institute, which provides education to about forty children with Down syndrome, is the result of the work of an inter-congregational reality (which welcomes religious of different Orders) born on the initiative of Guanellian priest Fr. Giancarlo Pravettoni to answer John Paul II's request: in fact in the Christmas speech of 2001, the Pope launched an appeal to the world to save the children of Kabul.
In Afghanistan, where Islam is recognized as a State religion, the Catholic presence was admitted at the beginning of the twentieth century as simple spiritual assistance within the Italian Embassy in Kabul, with the first priest Barnabite. In 2002 the "Missio sui iuris" was created by John Paul II. Today the Catholic mission continues to have a base in the diplomatic structure and is entrusted to Barnabite father Giovanni Scalese. The Missionary Sisters of Charity are also operating in the Afghan capital. (LF) (Agenzia Fides, 30/5/2020)