, 30 March, 2020 / 6:00 AM
In a keen adherence to the directives of South Sudan government to stop social gatherings as a measure to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 in the East African country, which is yet to record a case of the deadly virus, the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba has announced the closure of all Catholic-run institutions in the country’s only Metropolitan See.
“In response to the directives of H. E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, on the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) preventive measures, the administration of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba hereby order the closure of all Churches, Schools and institutions,” reads part of the Archdiocesan letter dated Monday, March 23.
Signed by the Secretary General of the Archdiocese, Fr. Samuel Abe Joseph, the letter states that the institutions operating in the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba would remain inaccessible for a period of one month.
“During this period, Priests and Bishops are advised to celebrate the Holy Mass in private,” the South Sudanese cleric has directed.
Church institutions and airline companies in the East African nation are complying with the directive by the political leaders to flights and gatherings respectively, as a measure to stay safe from the deadly virus.
South Sudan’s 16-member high-level task force committee on COVID-19 Pandemic announced Monday, March 23, the decision to close Juba International Airport and all borders to Juba.
“All international flights destined to, and from Juba International Airport/Airstrips are advised to cease their operations by midnight 24th March 2020,” reads the communique seen by ACI Africa.
The exceptions of the closure are food cargo flights, aircrafts in state of emergency, flights passing airspace, humanitarian aid operations, alternate aerodromes identified in the flight plan and technical landings in which passengers will not disembark.
The government of South Sudan has also closed all border crossings involving passenger buses and vehicles, permitting only cargo buses, food trucks, and fuel tanks.
Following the same directives, the Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) and the Metropolitan Bishop of Juba Diocese, Justine Badi Arama, announced the suspension of all church activities for the next one month in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19 before any case of the fatal disease is reported in the country.
“All Christians should remain at home and pray from home with their own families until we get directives from the government that it is safe to congregate again,” ECSS’s Bishop Justine Badi Arama directed in his Monday, March 23 letter.
So far, the war-torn oil rich nation has not reported any case of COVID-19 but neighboring countries in the East African Community (EAC) such as Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya have confirmed cases of the infection.
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