Cardinal Duka on a covid lockdown during Lent: all must make sacrifices for the greater good

Dominik Duka, photo: Adam Kebrt / Czech Radio

A year into the coronavirus pandemic, the Czech Republic has a higher per capita death toll than any other EU country. The nation is on the verge of another lockdown as cases soar, including of new, more aggressive mutations. Cardinal Dominika Duka recently spoke to Czech Radio about the fear, frustration and fatigue gripping the nation.

The interview with Cardinal Duka, which aired on Thursday, comes in the middle of Lent, a six-week celebration that helps believers of the Christian faith prepare for Easter through penance and fasting, and a day before the government was due to announce new tougher restrictions – on movement, the wearing of facemasks and much more.

A great many Czechs have failed to respect the anti-pandemic measures, notes Cardinal Duka, calling for greater solidarity amid a pandemic that has claimed nearly 20,000 lives here. Does he believe that unwillingness to make some personal sacrifices for the greater good stems from fatigue?

“The issue of fatigue is rather complicated. I’ve spoken to people with insight into the matter – we’re a bit clueless because we feel helpless. And when the health officials tell you they know we’re struggling, it doesn’t help. The state administration, self-regulation, is collapsing because people are saying: Does it really matter if the disease progresses instead of subsiding?”

Illustrative photo: Alessandro Augusto Lucia,  Flickr,  CC BY 2.0

Cardinal Duka says that, in his experience, the strict measures have provoked two reactions. People who are anxious want to believe the measures will save them. Others react to their fear with anger and lash out

“There are times when I myself have had enough and feel like going to a demonstration! The feeling of helplessness against this disease weighs upon us all. The necessary distancing measures leave us feeling isolated, even abandoned, and admitting the fear of the pandemic drains their strength.”

The Archbishop of Prague says people should rather be thankful for the doctors, frontline medical workers, and people in a host of other services working to keep everyone safe – something to think about not just during yet another lockdown, Lent or at Easter.

“We have never had to think so much about the meaning of life, questions of pain, disease. Deaths have risen due to the coronavirus, and the question of death is something we try to block out. As for funerals, some 80 percent of people are leaving this world without someone saying farewell.”

As for Easter, the most important holiday in Christianity, Cardinal Duka says celebrants should respect anti-pandemic measures. And that certainly the Czech folk tradition of men going house to house on Easter Monday – with braided willow switches (pomlázka), demanding painted eggs and shots of plum brandy from women – will have to go this year.