Senegal’s Archdiocese of Dakar Modifies Schedule for Burials Amid COVID-19

Saint Lazare Cemetery in Sengal's Capital, Dakar.
Credit: Public Domain

With 162 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the West African nation of Senegal, the Archdiocese of Dakar has adjusted schedules for burials at in the two Catholic cemeteries to take place “only in the morning” to allow the staff enough time to meet a curfew deadline, one of the measures put in place to avoid the spread of the virus that has claimed at least 37,815 lives across the globe.

“Given the current situation and until further notice, burials at the Saint Lazare and Bel Air cemeteries will be organized only in the morning,” the chaplain of the Management Committee of Catholic Cemeteries (COGECIC) in Senegal’s capital Dakar, Fr. Joseph Gning announced in a communique dated Sunday, March 29.

According to Fr. Gning, the reorganization of schedules for burials is in line with the curfew declared by President Macky Sall from 8 p.m. – 5 a.m. as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“The suspension of burials in the afternoon will allow staff to return to their homes before the curfew declared by the Head of State,” the Chaplain of COGECIC explained in the statement, referencing the dusk-to-dawn curfew, which President Macky Sall declared March 23 along with a state of emergency across the West African nation.

Senegal reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, March 30, bringing the country’s total confirmed cases to 162, local media reported.

According to the spokesman of the Ministry of Health and social action, Alyose Waly Diouf, “The 20 new cases included five imported ones and 14 close contacts of earlier confirmed patients. The other one was a community transmission case.”

Twenty-eight patients have been declared cured by local health authorities.

Referencing the message of the Bishops of Senegal in a letter dated March 17, which outlined directives for the organization of funerals, the Parish Priest of the Sacred Parish Dakar said, “In the event of a funeral, we ask everyone to limit themselves only to the absolution, at the Cemetery, in the presence of the restricted family.”

COGECIC chaplain recommends that families comply with the Bishops' decision and also respect the hygiene and prevention measures taken by the public authorities.

“We appeal to the sense of responsibility at the family level to avoid large gatherings at cemeteries,” Fr. Gning stated in the communique and continued, “It is true that we are in Africa, but today we cannot do as we did before. The final farewell ceremony must remain in strict family privacy.”

“It is also important to ensure that the recommended distances in public transport vehicles are respected when transferring the deceased to the cemetery,” emphasized COGECIC Chaplain.

Created in March 2004, COGECIC brings together representatives from all parishes in the Archdiocese of Dakar.

The body seeks to ensure the safety and respect of the graves, cleanliness and management of the sites, in close collaboration with the municipality of Dakar.

Christian cemeteries, like all other cemeteries, are placed under the responsibility of the municipalities on whose territory they are located. COGECIC, under the authority of the Archbishop of Dakar, supports them and ensures the proper management of Christian cemeteries while respecting the prerogatives of the municipalities.

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