Bishops in Lesotho Issue Guidelines for Reopening of Churches

Bishops in Lesotho with Pope Francis during their ad-limina visit in Rome.

Six weeks after the government of Lesotho lifted the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, Catholic Bishops in the landlocked Southern Africa nation have issued guidelines for the reopening of churches starting July 5.

In their Wednesday, June 17 collective statement, the Bishops have directed Priests in the country to meet with their parish committees by June 21 and put in place COVID-19 hygiene protocols in readiness for the resumption of public Mass.

The Priests are to have in place flowing water, face masks, sanitizers, thermometers, and register books in which contact information of all congregants will be recorded, the Bishops have directed.

The Priests are to also schedule Sunday Mass while observing a maximum number of 50 faithful as directed by the government.

“The service will take an hour, not more,” the members of Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference (LCBC) say in the two-page statement obtained by ACI Africa.

As a precautionary measure, the four Prelates inform the people of God in the country that during Mass “some sacraments, relics and ceremonies are temporarily set aside.”

“In these situations, we have always been grateful to God for His grace that we have been preserved. Let us continue to pray, keep ourselves and avoid infection,” the Bishops say in their June 17 statement.

The government of Lesotho imposed a national lockdown on March 30 as a precautionary measure to control the spread of COVID-19 mostly from neighboring South Africa, which had recorded 10,000 cases, the highest on the continent then.

On May 5, the country’s then Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane announced the easing of lockdown restrictions, allowing "all non-essential services and enterprises" to "temporarily open shop" starting May 6.

Until May 12, the high-altitude kingdom that is encircled by South Africa was the only African country without a reported COVID-19 case. This status changed with the confirmation of the first case on May 13.

Since then, the country has recorded three more cases and two recoveries.

The pandemic has hit the country amid revelations that the immediate former Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane and his wife, Maesaiah Thabane paid assassins US$24,000 to kill his estranged wife, Lipolelo Thabane.

A guilty verdict on the couple or any of them could have Canon Law consequences leading to the invalidity of their marriage by a canonical tribunal.

An enclave of South Africa, Lesotho has an estimated 70 percent Catholic population spread across four Ecclesiastical Sees.

Tags: Lesotho , Safety Guidelines , Reopening of Churches , COVID-19 , LCBC , ACI Africa