, 20 May, 2020 / 4:47 AM
As places of worship remain closed in Nigeria as one of the measures in Africa’s most populous country to curb the possible spread of COVID-19, the Archbishop of Abuja, Ignatius Kaigama has appealed to the Federal government to allow Christians to participate in public Mass on Pentecost Sunday, May 31 while observing specific guidelines.
“With every sense of responsibility therefore, we request that by the 31st of May, that is the Feast of Pentecost, our people should be allowed to congregate for worship, but according to the norms of social distancing and the strict adherence of personal hygiene,” Archbishop Kaigama said Sunday, May 17.
The Nigerian Prelate who was addressing the congregation during Holy Mass at Sacred Heart Parish Abuja reiterated, “After a prolonged stay at home, with the Church impeded in her mission to worship, to evangelize and to serve the poor, many religious adherents are pressurizing that, keeping in mind their readiness to observe all the rules about social distancing, hand washing, face mask, avoiding big and uncontrolled crowds and so on, they should be allowed to engage in public religious worship.”
The 61-year-old Prelate also said Christians are ready “to submit themselves to the disciplinary measures prescribed for participating in worship during this coronavirus era.”
He added, “Religious leaders are also ready to ensure strict adherence to the guidelines provided by the government and the National Center for Disease Control and no religious leaders should lead their flock to violate or breach what is in the interests of the common welfare.”
On Monday, May 18, Nigeria’s Federal government extended the partial lockdown by another two weeks as a measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
With the partial lockdown, commercial activities resumed gradually in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states while all places of worship are expected to remain closed to congregational services until further notice, according to a report.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in the West African nation stood at 6,175 Tuesday, May 19, according to statistics from Worldometers. There have been COVID-19 related 192 deaths and 1,644 patients have fully recovered.
Speaking on COVID-19 restrictions during the May 17 Mass, the Local ordinary of Abuja said, “Many Christians have acknowledged that the coronavirus has made people to stay home more with their spouses and children. Some say they pray more and read the Bible better. In short, they are more conscious of God.”
He observed that religious leaders in the country can use places of worship to sensitize and educate people on the various implications of the disease.
“We believe that religious leaders can make the most prudent use of places of worship and therefore assist government in enlightening people on the social consequences of COVID-19,” the Nigerian Prelate said and appealed that “worship centers be kept open but in compliance with government and health directives.”
“Prayer, both individual and communally still remains our most effective force in the elimination of the coronavirus since the world does not even know yet sufficiently its origin, nature and mode of operation,” the Archbishop said and added, “If Science, medicine and governments cannot do it, let prayer do it.”
"Now that the tiny virus is so respected, honored, and feared, we must not end up giving God second place, as some official pronouncements seem to suggest, by excluding essential religious services from the list of essential services," Archbishop Kaigama said.
“Economic, commercial or political interest must not shut out God in our daily affairs. The consequences will not be pleasant,” he underlined.
Archbishop Kaigama also noted that “our helplessness before the tiny coronavirus has shown that man cannot control all things. Even with all his skills and knowledge, he cannot tell what the future holds.”
“We need God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. Man is just a creation of God and if cut off from God, he can do nothing,” he said and explained, “We need the Holy Spirit to wash us clean of our prejudices, hatred, and those acts that degrade human life. We need to experience more intensely the transforming and life-changing presence of the Holy Spirit.”
Archbishop Kaigama implored that the Lord sends down the Holy Spirit on us and on the whole world “to clean our world filled with sickness, hunger and poverty, our hearts corrupted by evil and our humanity broken by lack of genuine love.”
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