, 13 May, 2020 / 1:59 AM
The resumption of the celebration of Holy Mass in public in the West African nations of Burkina Faso and Niger is expected on the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, Thursday, May 21, the Bishops in the two-nation Conference announced over the weekend.
“We, your Pastors, after having prayed deeply and exchanged at length among ourselves, after having consulted informed members of our entire Church Family of God in Burkina Faso, have decided that Catholic Liturgical celebrations opened to the public, especially Sunday, precept and daily Masses, will resume as from May 20-21, 2020, that is to say, from the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN) stated in their collective message dated May 9.
The Bishops added, “The resumption of our public liturgical and para-liturgical celebrations will take place in strict respect of administrative measures and health instructions issued by the competent authorities of our country, including, any particularity or specificity taken into account, the directives we gave you on March 12, 2020.”
Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré issued a decree Monday, May 4 easing restrictions that had been put in place when the first cases of COVID-19 in the country was recorded in March, local media reported.
The decree authorizes the reopening of markets, places of worship and the resumption of public transport in all cities in the west African nation.
On the other hand, the restrictions around land borders and air travels as well the ban on public gatherings of more than 50 people remain in force until further notice.
Burkina Faso has recorded at least 760 cases of COVID-19 with 50 deaths and 584 recoveries, according to Worldometers.
In their May 9 collective statement, the Bishops in Burkina Faso and Niger have outlined preventive measures to be followed by the faithful during public liturgical celebrations.
“The wearing of face masks is now obligatory for collective prayers; hand washing or disinfection must be systematic before entering the church; handshakes and hugs are prohibited,” the Prelates directed, adding, “places of worship and meeting places will also be disinfected according to the indications of the health authorities and a distance of at least one meter, mandatory for each meeting.”
On safety measures during liturgical celebrations and other pastoral activities, the Bishops have reminded the faithful of specific rules of conduct, including the suppression of the kiss of peace and the handshake during Mass, communion only in the hand, the reduction of concelebrants and communion by intinction, and the emptying of the holy water stoup at the doors of churches.
“The ordinary and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist will disinfect their hands with soap or hydro alcoholic gel before and after the distribution of communion,” the Bishops directed and added, “Pilgrimages, evangelization campaigns, retreats and other mass gatherings will be suspended or postponed to a more favorable period.”
In the Prelates’ collective statement, “Each Bishop will make suitable arrangements for the completion of the catechetical year and the celebration of the sacraments. It is likewise incumbent on each local Ordinary to establish practical arrangements for the administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the other sacraments.”
The Bishops went on to congratulate the Catholic faithful for their "patience, endurance in faith, hope and charity always manifested especially in the most difficult times of our nation's life.”
“Indeed, throughout the period marked by the most restrictive measures, you have been attentive to the appeals and recommendations of your pastors the Bishops, thus marking your sense of the Church which can exist and grow only through the unity and communion of her sons and daughters,” the two-nation Prelates stated in their collective message signed by CEBN President, Bishop Laurent Dabiré.
The Bishops have invited the faithful to pray for “the deceased and their families, for the sick, for health personnel, and for our authorities who have to make important decisions for the well-being and development of all.”
“With you, we implore the Lord to strengthen us in his love so that together, with our brothers and sisters, we can take up the challenges that concern us all, especially the scourge of terrorism and the coronavirus pandemic which, each in its own way, threaten the very existence of our country,” the Bishops stated.
“United in faith in the Risen One, let us put all these in prayer and let us continue to act with all our strength, so that these evils may be removed from our world,” they concluded.
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