SOUTH AFRICA: Church in Solidarity with the Government to Contain Coronavirus

CAPE TOWN, MARCH 17, 2020 (CISA)-The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) has directed priests in South Africa to celebrate Masses for smaller groups in adherence to a directive by the government to limiting the crowd of worshippers to 100 people.

This is in bid to contain the spread of Covid-19 that has been declared a national state of disaster by President Cyril Ramaphosa.  The country has reported 61 positive cases of the virus.

In a bid to reduce contact during Mass, the bishops have suspended the sign of peace and directed that the Holy Water fonts at the entrance of churches be drained.

The bishops have directed the clergy and faithful to maintain personal hygiene by washing their hands with soap and water, or by frequent use of sanitizers.  Reception of the Precious Blood by concelebrants and congregation has also been suspended.

“Care and prudence should be taken in administering, celebrating and attending the sacraments of Baptism, First Holy Communion, confirmation, Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders,” they said calling for safer measures while administering sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation during the pandemic.

As regards to celebrations in church, Bishops have been encouraged to postpone celebrations of ordinations while upcoming wedding ceremonies are to be attended only by immediate family members. The number of those attending funerals is to be maintained at below 100.

Various alterations have been made on Easter celebrations with the bishops considering safe alternatives for the Triduum rituals among them the washing of the feed, veneration of the cross on Good Friday, Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night among others.

“Travels related to the work of the SCBC should be limited to the minimum. All diocesan, Deanery and Parish large gatherings which involve travelling should be cancelled,” it adds.

Homes for the elderly and schools have been advised to follow guidelines provided by both the Departs of Health and Basic education authorities to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“The faithful are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the public education of Covid-19 and to take necessary precautionary measures at all times,” the bishops said.