South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese Considers Deferment of Matrimony amid COVID-19

The leadership of South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese has advised couples to consider deferring the celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

“The best is to defer marriages until it is safe to celebrate the Sacrament with greater freedom and with greater festivity,” the Auxiliary Bishop of Cape Town Archdiocese, Sylvester David has said in a statement issued Thursday, September 10.

In the event that a couple is unable to wait until conditions become more favorable, Bishop David says, “a marriage may be celebrated with no more than the couple, the witnesses and the immediate family members of the couple in attendance.”

“Every precaution must be taken to ensure that persons with co-morbidities are not invited,” Bishop David, a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) cautions in the statement dated September 8.

While the South African government allows for a maximum number of 50 people for such a ceremony, the 67-year-old Prelate says the leadership of the Archdiocese has found it necessary to restrict the numbers to not more than 25 people or even less.


This is in the “interest of safety and with due regard for effective tracing should this become necessary,” he explains.

Regarding Baptisms, the South African Prelate directs in the three-page statement, “Only one child at a time may be baptized per celebration,” and “care must be taken to have in attendance only one sponsor and the immediate family members of the child being baptized.”

In line with the Archdiocesan guidelines on liturgical celebrations amid COVID-19, the Bishop reiterates that no singing is allowed, and directs that the Litany of the Saints and all prayers and responses “be done in a soft voice.”

“In keeping with Canon Law, where the danger of death exists, Baptism is to be administered without delay,” the Bishop further directs in the September 8 statement obtained by ACI Africa.

He continues, "We appeal to the discretion of each Parish Priest/ Administrator and expect that where there is extreme danger (for example in hotspots), celebrations of Baptisms and Marriages will be deferred until greater safety is assured."

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In the September 8 statement, the Bishop also announces the decision of the Archdiocesan leadership to revise Mass attendance numbers upwards, a decision he says resulted from people “becoming accustomed to the necessary safety measures.”

Following this decision, parishes that resumed public Mass with six congregants are advised to increase the number to 15, while those that had 15 are to revise the number to 25.

Those parishes that have not yet started celebrating the Eucharist are encouraged to start by having six persons attending Mass, the South African Prelate directs in his statement copied to the Vicar General of the Archdiocese.

“We also depend on the discretion of the priests –for example, while we request priests not to raise the maximum number of people attending Mass, some priests – especially those who minister in hotspots, might find it necessary to keep the numbers lower,” Bishop David notes.

In such cases, he says, “the dispensation given by the Archbishop at the start of the National Lockdown still holds good – as it does with respect to all who, for safety reasons, cannot attend Mass on a Sunday.”


He also recommends that the faithful consider weekday Mass attendance in fulfilment of their Sunday obligation and notes, “It might be necessary to give catechesis in this regard.”

“Where live streaming is possible this option may be used with respect to the Eucharist, Baptisms, Confirmations, Funerals and Marriages. Celebrations must be kept brief,” the Bishop says in the September 8 statement.

“It must be borne in mind that the pandemic is by no means over,” the Bishop cautions and adds, “The more we engage with others, the greater the vigilance we need to exercise.”