The Catholic Daily, La Croix International reports that Churches across the continent take steps to stop the spread of COVID-19
At the end of February, the Archbishop of Lagos, the state where a case of coronavirus was discovered, announced preventive measures that coincided with the beginning of Lent. Archbishop Alfred Martins gave several recommendations that restrict physical contact during Eucharistic celebrations.
From now on, communion should be received on the palm of the hand, rather than on the tongue, and priests in this state should stop sprinkling holy water. “We must take proactive measures to protect ourselves from infection,” Archbishop Martins said in a statement. “To minimize the number of church gatherings, we are encouraging people to make the Way of the Cross in private on Wednesdays, while public celebrations will only take place on Fridays,” he added.
Civil authorities in South Africa have also taken important preventive measures after a person in Durban was identified as being infected with COVID-19. Cardinal Wilfried Napier of Durban in a March 6 statement supported the measures, specifically in the context of Catholic worship. Wash your hands before entering church grounds, he advised, and consult a doctor if you are ill. He also urged Catholics to avoid going to church if they have symptoms such as coughing. Cardinal Napier also asked priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer before distributing communion. He said hosts should be given only in the hand, not on the tongue. He also forbade the distribution the Eucharistic wine at Mass, stating that “one receives both the Body and the Blood of Christ in the consecrated host”.
The cardinal has also instructed parish priests to encourage Mass goers to use a gesture that does not require physical contact, and is adapted to the local culture, at the sign of peace. “Perhaps a bowing of the head instead of the traditional handshake,” he suggested. Finally, holy water fonts are be be emptied.
The same goes for Senegal, which recorded its first case of coronavirus a week ago and now has five cases. The Catholic Episcopal Conference of Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau decided to take all necessary precautions to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread. “The Church, through its health and doctrinal structures, is never on the sidelines of the struggle for the defense and protection of life,” it explained in a March 7 communiqué. “For public health reasons, we, the bishops of Senegal, invite all our faithful to follow the health measures in force. We recommend that, until further notice, the kiss of peace that precedes communion should be eliminated and communicants should respectfully receive the body of Christ in the palm of their hand,” the Senegalese episcopate said, recalling that the mission does not stop there. “On the contrary, it continues in an ever more determined and daring way,” he said.
Finally, even though there are no coronavirus patients in their country, the Catholic bishops of Ghana published a set of preventive measures at the beginning of March. “All are encouraged to receive Holy Communion in their hands,” the bishops’ conference explained in an ad hoc document. It also urged priests and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist “wash their hands or use disinfectant before and after the distribution of Holy Communion”.”Avoid handshakes and hugs at the sign of peace,” the bishops conference said. The document was drafted in agreement with Ghana’s National Health Department.
The bishops are encouraging Ghanaian Catholics to pray for a halt to the spread of the disease. COVID-19 has spread to some 115 countries and territories, infecting more than 116,000 people. The death toll is beyond 4,000. In the coming days, Catholic bishops from several other countries in Africa are expected to announce preventive measures, as most did in 2015 during the height of the Ebola epidemic.
Reproduced with permission from La Croix International https://international.la-croix.com/