, 21 March, 2020 / 3:30 AM
Following Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi directives aimed at containing the possible spread of COVID-19 beyond the 14 confirmed cases, Church leaders in the central African country have urged her citizens to adhere to the measures “scrupulously.”
“The behaviour recommended to us is vital for all of us. That is why we invite all Congolese to apply them scrupulously in their families and in their professional circles,” reads in part a statement by the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO).
“An effective response to this disease can be possible only through strict compliance with the measures enacted by the competent authorities,” the Bishops add in their collective statement dated Thursday, March 19.
President Tshisekedi announced Wednesday, March 18 stringent measures to contain the possible spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, following the confirmation of 14 cases in the country.
Among the measures, DRC’s Head of State suspended “all flights from countries at risk and transit countries” starting Friday, March 20 and decreed, “Only aircraft and cargo ships and other means of freight transport will be allowed access to the national territory and their personnel subject to controls.”
He also “postpone(d) travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for all passengers residing in countries at risk until further notice.”
Further, the Congolese leader directed that all persons departing from the country’s capital, Kinshasa to the other parts of the country be systematically subjected “to control measures in order to prevent the spread of this pandemic to the rest of our country.”
He went on to prohibit “all gatherings, meetings, celebrations, of more than 20 people in public places outside the family home.”
Schools, activities in stadiums, entertainment joints and all public worship have also been temporarily suspended in DRC, the President directed.
“All cases that test positive throughout the country will be treated at the Government's expense,” DRC’s President said during the Wednesday National Address.
In this regard, the Catholic Prelates in DRC congratulate the Head of State “for the wise decisions he has taken at this time.”
“We also commend the measures taken by the Government to engage in the fight against this virus, whose threat also seriously weighs on our country,” the CENCO Bishops add in their collective statement signed by their President, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani.
Addressing Church personnel, the Bishops have urged “all the Parish Priests, all the Administrators and Managers of Church structures: hospitals and Health Centres, etc., to implement collective and individual protective measures to avoid any occasion of transmission of this disease to one another.”
“The instruction of the Head of State on worship remains in force in our Churches,” the Catholic Church leaders have stated, reiterating the temporary suspension of public celebration of Mass.
“Priests and Consecrated Persons may celebrate in private in order to continue to pray especially for the end of this pandemic,” the Bishops’ collective message reads and clarifies, “The fact of not having Masses in parishes does not exempt Christians from prayer, which remains an effective weapon to face this difficult time.”
For seminaries and religious houses, the Bishops recommend that “community gatherings and exercises keep strictly a family character and be limited to members of the community only.”
The Bishops have underscored, “Each of us (has to) be the guardian of our neighbour and be actively involved in the fight against this pandemic by raising awareness of the need to respect the response measures.”
“It is important that each of us participate at our own level in the response to this pandemic,” the Bishops further say, urging “the Congolese people to realize that Coronavirus is a disease just as dangerous as Ebola.”
“In the face of the gloomy situation that prevails in the world today and which also affects our country, the DR Congo, we, Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops members of CENCO, share the sadness and concerns that animate so many people's minds. Indeed, the Coronavirus pandemic disempowers us and questions us about what we should do,” the Congolese Bishops have noted.
They conclude, “Our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Congo, let us continue to raise our prayers to Him so that He may protect our country and all humanity from this scourge.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa