, 16 May, 2020 / 2:00 AM
Following the decision by the government of Ivory Coast to ease restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, Catholic Bishops in the West African nation have announced the lifting of the suspension on the celebration of Mass in public effective May 17 and directed Priests to ensure those in attendance do not exceed 200.
“Taking into consideration new measures adopted by the Government following the National Security Council meeting held Thursday, May 14, the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) hereby authorizes the resumption of Sunday and daily Eucharistic celebrations with the participation of a number of faithful not exceeding 200 persons, starting this Sunday, 17 May 2020,” the members of CECCI said in a Press Release issued Friday, May 15.
They added in reference to the celebration of public Masses, “We appeal to the responsibility of the Parish Priests and the faithful for a rigorous organization of these celebrations in conformity with the measures in force.”
The West African country has recorded at least 2017 cases of COVID-19, 24 deaths and 942 recoveries.
In their collective statement, the Bishops call for a “resumption of all pastoral activities from this Sunday 17 May 2020 throughout the national territory, including catechesis, meetings of prayer groups and SCCs, the celebration of the other sacraments and funerals.”
The various gatherings of the people of God, the Bishops have further directed, “remain subject to compliance with the preventive measures, namely: wearing of face masks, washing hands at the entrance of churches, respecting a distance of at least one (1) meter between people, and omitting gestures of peace (greetings, hugs) during celebrations.”
At the end of a meeting chaired by President Alassane Ouattara on Thursday, May 14, the National Security Council (CNS) in Ivory Coast announced the lifting of the curfew in Abidjan and its suburbs from Friday May 15.
Schools are expected to reopen on May 25, according to CNS.
Following initial measures taken by the government at the end of CNS meeting of March 17, Bishops in Ivory Coast suspended the celebration of public Mass in the country; they had called on the faithful to scrupulously respect measures put in place to curb the possible spread of COVID-19.
In their May 15 statement, the Prelates congratulate the Catholic faithful, Religious and Clergy for their “exemplary observance of the measures and encourage them to persevere in their trust in the Lord, who alone is able to deliver us from this pandemic.”
In a separate statement issued Friday, May 15, the Bishops in Ivory Coast have suspended the annual national funds drive, which had been scheduled to take place at the end of the month.
“Following the coronavirus pandemic which has disrupted all our habits and pastoral activities, we wish to inform you that the traditional collection of the National Catholic Solidarity Fund, scheduled for 30 and 31 May 2020, has been temporarily suspended,” the Bishops said in their collective statement signed by CECCI President, Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo.
“In the face of the health crisis caused by COVID-19, which our country is experiencing like other nations, we share the financial and economic difficulties of all those who have had to stop work. We do not forget the ecclesial institutions, the parishes, the families and all the Christian communities,” the Bishops explained in their statement.
“We invite you to pray to the Risen Christ, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for an end to this pandemic,” the Church leaders 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