Nigeria’s Onitsha Archdiocese “to slowly lift suspension” on Public Mass

Archbishop Valerian Okeke of Onitsha, Nigeria.

In view of the envisaged easing of the COVID-19 lockdown imposed by Nigeria's Anambra State, home to the Metropolitan See of Onitsha, the Archbishop has announced the possibility of lifting the suspension of Public Mass, albeit slowly.

“As the compulsory and comprehensive lockdown imposed by the Anambra state government gradually ends this weekend, it is our desire and intention to slowly lift the suspension we imposed on the Public celebration of Holy Mass so that our Common Sacramental and spiritual life will progressively return to normal,” Archbishop Valerian Okeke stated in a letter dated April 25.

He added, “Since the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life, only the Holy Mass can be celebrated in the parishes, in the meantime, with a limited and controlled number of the faithful. All other liturgical and devotional activities are still suspended.”

In the two-page letter addressed to Priests, Religious men and women, and lay faithful in his Archdiocese, the 66-year-old Prelate also directed that the celebration of the Mass does not exceed one and a half hours and cautioned, “To stay beyond this time is uncharitable and should be taken seriously.” 

Other precautionary measures to be observed during the celebration of Mass in public include wearing of face masks, thorough hand washing and sanitizing for the congregants, as well as social distancing.


The faithful are also advised not to exchange the Sign of Peace and instead adopt “a simple bow of the head to each other.” Holy Communion shall be received on the hand, the Archbishop directed.

To ensure “strict adherence” to the guidelines, the Archbishop urged priests to offer more Masses.

“I wish to sincerely thank all our priests who have risen to the challenge to connect with their parishioners in new ways. They are indeed fulfilling their ordination promise to ‘implore God's mercy upon the people entrusted to their care’ by observing the command to pray without ceasing,” Archbishop Okeke observed in his April 25 letter seen by ACI Africa.

He also expressed his gratitude to “our Catholic lay faithful for religiously giving heed to our directives which has helped in the safeguard of our common health.”

The Archbishop added, “Please do not forget to assist our needy brothers and sisters who are suffering untold hardships because of the present situation.”

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Through their March 29 letter, the Bishops in Nigeria suspended public Masses as a precautionary measure to control the spread of COVID-19 in their country where at least 1,273 people have tested positive for the virus.