KENYA: Catholic Bishops give Guidelines for Liturgical Celebrations as Country Considers Re-opening Places of Worship

By Arnold Neliba

NAIROBI, JULY 3, 2020 (CISA)-The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has released an eight-paged liturgical guideline on the reopening of public worship, even as the church awaits the outcome of the inter-faith council appointed by President Kenyatta to give a roadmap for re-opening places of worship.

While stressing on the guidelines given by the Ministry of Health, the bishops introduced liturgical guidelines including recommendations of more Masses for smaller congregations and open air Masses where possible.

“In the event that capacity restrictions are small, parishes can consider or be encouraged to organize Masses on a day other than Sunday (or Vigil Mass on Saturday evening) to help spread out population and afford others the opportunity to also be present as permissible,” the bishops said in a June 30 statement signed by Archbishop Philip Anyolo, Chairman of KCCB.

In the first phase of opening, only 15 percent occupancy will be accepted in the churches, 25 percent occupancy for the second phase, 50 percent for the third phase and 100 percent occupancy for the fourth phase with strict protocols to be followed.

In adherence to requirements from the Ministry of Health, the bishops are proposing healthy hygiene practices by regular sanitization of Churches, pews, chairs and any other instruments used during Mass. Churches will have to provide sanitizers at the entrance of Churches.

“All members of the congregation to wear masks including the ministers,” said the bishops, with churches encouraged to have a station for masks outside the churches and avail masks for those who may not have.

To protect the vulnerable populations, bishops suggest those with pre-existing conditions or manifesting symptoms of Covid-19 will to remain at home. Families will be expected to sit together and ensure “all elderly persons have specific “carers” who will act as guardians.”

For easier contact tracing, people will be asked to write contact papers as they enter churches with emphasis on lack of trust in giving contacts for celebrations.

The bishops discourage sharing of materials and items among members to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. They suggest removal of “all Missals, Hymnals, Prayer Cards and other paper resources and have someone charged with sanitization of microphones.” They encourage the use of screens for songs.

“Collection to be done without processions, without passing from person to person,” they said, further directing that churches set up designated collection stations and those in-charge of collections to wear gloves.

Churches will have to avail gun thermometer to take temperature at the entrance of church compound and those who record reading above the normal not allowed to congregate. Specific churches have been tasked to come up with clear protocols on how to handle illness suspects.

For weddings and other religious ceremonies, only 100 people will be allowed to attend at the initial stages stressing on education on the guidelines concerning festivities. Confessions will be administered with social distancing.

Eating at funerals has been discouraged with the number of attendees capped at 200 in the first phase with a limited number going to the graveside.

“Have a Covid-19 moment in every service, we pass on information and civic education. Use of our Faith based radio Stations by having regular programs,” they added, proposing the use of priests and community leaders in the exercise.

The bishops suggest inspection by public health officers and closure of non-compliance places and collection of suggestions through Inter-Faith Sub-Counties review Committees to improve on the measures.

“By giving these guidelines, we are confident that we can assure our Christians of their safety when attending the Church services,” it reads.

This comes as the Inter-faith Council on the national response to Covid-19 is set to issue guidelines for a safe and phased reopening of places of worship in the country.