, 02 April, 2020 / 7:07 AM
With rising number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the West African nation of Ghana, Catholic Bishops in the country have directed Parish Priests to skip key liturgical observances, including Palm Sunday procession that signifies the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
This is in line with the Decree of the Vatican-based Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued March 25.
Catholics in the West African country, will however, follow Mass that will be broadcast live on TV and streamed on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, according to directives that have been issued by various dioceses in the country.
“Holy Week is a special moment in the Church’s liturgical life and we shall celebrate it but with strict adherence to the directives of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference and within the limits imposed by government’s directives,” Archbishop John Bonaventure Kwofie told the Clergy and faithful of the Sekondi-Takoradi Diocese where he serves as Apostolic Administrator.
In a pastoral directive issued on March 24 made available to ACI Africa, the Archbishop announced that Chrism Mass in the Archdiocese had been postponed “to a later date.”
On Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, the Apostolic Administrator will celebrate Mass with a congregation of not more than five people. The Mass, he said, would be streamed live by the Sektadi Catholic TV on YouTube and Facebook.
The Prelate said that Priests would also celebrate Holy Mass in their various Parishes, restricting attendances to not more than five people.
He said that on this important day, palm branches will be blessed in various parishes and outstations but processions will be omitted.
Archbishop Kwofie who shepherds the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra stated that “our people need to experience the closeness of the Church to them even if congregating for Holy Masses or other Religious events and meetings are not permitted in these challenging times. As Pastors, we will sustain their faith through prayer and breaking of the Word.”
He urged the Priests to adhere to the governments directives on the fight against the spread of COVID-19 saying, “Let us co-operate in helping the implementation of these measures; they are for our good. As leaders of the community of faith, our people look up to us for direction.”
The Prelate further cautioned against flouting the government's directives of hygiene, saying that the country lacked sufficient health facilities to tackle infections and relied solely on taking necessary precautions.
“We are aware that our country lacks sufficient and well-equipped health facilities to handle the situation should it go beyond tolerable levels,’ he said, adding, “We must therefore invest more in taking precautions and implementing preventive measures.”
In a similar Pastoral Letter to the faithful, Bishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr of the Wa Diocese, stated that Easter being “the heart of the entire liturgical year and is not simply on Feast among others” had to be celebrated, whatever the circumstances and that it would not be transferred to another time.
“All priests in parishes and institutions may offer Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper in a simple place without the public washing of feet which is already optional should be omitted,” the Bishop directed.
The Letter further instructed that “the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose at the end of the Mass should also be omitted and the Blessed Sacrament should remain in the Tabernacle.”
According to the Bishop, Good Friday Service of the Passion of Christ may be celebrated in the Cathedral Parish Church with Priests of the Cathedral Parish. The celebration will also be marked in Parishes without members of the public.
“Universally, prayers should include an intention for the sick, the dead and those who feel lost and dismayed,” Bishop Baawobr said.
In another letter seen by ACI Africa, the Divine Word Missionary Bishop of Ho, Emmanuel Kofi Fianu said that Mass on Palm Sunday will be presided over by the Bishop at 7:00GMT and that it will be streamed live on various communication channels.
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