, 11 June, 2020 / 1:00 AM
Following the easing of restrictions on public gatherings in Ghana, Catholic Bishops in the West African of Ghana have issued additional directives to guide various liturgical celebrations in a bid to contain the possible spread of COVID-19.
The additional directives range from vestments by Bishops, hygiene, and the administration of sacraments, among others.
“Bishops are advised not to use their crosiers, mitres and other regalia and restrict themselves to the use of their skull caps. The exception to this will be at priestly ordinations or consecration of a new bishop,” the members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) have directed in their collective statement dated Tuesday, June 9.
“For Metropolitan Archbishops, however, the use of the pallium is highly recommended,” the Bishops add in the statement signed by GCBC President, Archbishop Philip Naameh.
In a televised address to the nation May 31, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo eased the restrictions imposed on religious activities by directing that public worship could resume with a maximum of 100 worshippers at a time.
Following the announcement, Bishops in Ghana announced the resumption of public Mass in their respective jurisdictions under strict safety guidelines, giving separate dates for inaugural liturgical gatherings.
In their collective statement issued under the title, “Further Directives and Guidelines for Liturgical Celebrations,” Prelates in Ghana state, “We are in the season of Diaconate/Priestly Ordinations and depending on the limitations that may come from the President of the Nation on religious gatherings, it will be important we prepare for them.”
“It is important we observe and respect all the protocols in place. As far as our liturgical rites for such celebrations are concerned, we may not be able to compromise on some of them,” the Catholic Church leaders in Ghana say.
In their message, the Bishops direct that concelebrants “vest and be seated in their places (respecting social distancing) while the entrance procession is limited to the principal celebrant and the candidates with limited number of knights of the altar (cross-bearer, acolytes, Book of the Gospels, bearers of the bishop’s mitre and crosier).”
Focusing on the ordination of Priests, the Bishops direct that “the imposition of hands by the principal celebrant and the concelebrants must not be omitted (only it should not be elaborate). As a requirement, anointing of the palm of the candidates cannot be omitted. The presentation of the Chalice, the paten and the Book of the Gospels must be done. They are to be sanitized after that.”
The Prelates also recommend that “the gesture of welcoming the newly ordained into the Presbyterium by both the Bishop and other concelebrants be omitted.”
According to the Bishops, these recommendations can be applied to the “Renewal of Vows, Profession of Final Vows, Jubilees and amongst others.”
Regarding the Sacrament of Baptism, the members of GCBC note that this sacrament “may once again be administered when further restrictions have been relaxed taking into account the number of individuals permitted to gather while observing the required social distancing.”
However, they direct that baptism “be celebrated if those to be baptized do not exceed a maximum number of 10 candidates, each accompanied by both parents and one sponsor only; anointing should be carried out using cotton wool; a fresh cotton wool should be used to anoint each candidate; the priests sanitizes his hands immediately afterwards.”
On Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Bishops direct, “Given the Church’s norms for confession, the priest must be physically present to the penitent in person, and must be able to hear the penitent without the aid of electronic devices (that is, independently of a wired phone, a mobile phone, an intercom, or other audio or video transmitting device).”
“As always, the priest should take great care to ensure that the conversation with the penitent remains absolutely confidential,” they directed, adding that Priests can hear confessions under the conditions that he and penitent “wear face masks, both should respect social distancing-2 meters apart using chairs and the sacredness of the sacrament is not to be compromised.”
The Bishops also encourage Priests “to continue to pastorally care for the sick, the elderly and those who cannot attend Mass.”
“Care for the Sick and Elderly which includes Communion, Anointing of the Sick, and Penance, may be celebrated for those in need at the discretion of the priest,” the Bishops say.
“Sacrament of Marriage may be administered taking into account the number of individuals permitted for gathering, while observing social distancing except for the couple for whom physical nearness is inevitable,” the Bishops state.
For funerals, the restrictions on the number of people will need to be observed as well as regulations around physical distancing.
They add in reference to funerals, “Rite of reception at the entrance should be limited to a maximum of five members while maintaining the expected social distancing.”
“At the graveside, the number of people at the interment should not exceed the maximum number of persons required at social/religious gathering. Social distancing and standard hygienic practices should be strictly adhered to,” the Bishops have directed.
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 48 people with at least 10,201 cases reported, which include 3,755 recoveries from the disease.
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