, 19 June, 2020 / 9:00 PM
The decision by the leadership of Nigeria’s State of Lagos to put on hold the reopening of places of worship “till further notice” has disappointed the Catholic Archbishop in the country’s largest city who says that precautionary measures had already been put in place and that worshipers would be safer in “Church premises than in other public places such as markets and motor parks.”
“The recent announcement by the Lagos State Government, suspending the planned reopening of Churches for public worship has left us with a feeling of utter disappointment and bewilderment,” Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Lagos Archdiocese has said Friday, June 19.
“We had been engaging the Government and acting in concert with other Christians in the Christian Association of Nigeria on what we need to do,” Archbishop Adewale recalls in this statement obtained by ACI Africa, adding that the people of God under his care were looking forward to celebrating Mass.
In the statement, he highlights the “stringent” precautionary measures he had spearheaded “towards the gradual restoration of public Masses in order to ensure the safety of our people. All the parishes had started working to make the Church premises safe for worship following the guidelines later released by the government.”
Archbishop Adewale’s “disappointment” follows the declaration by Lagos State Government Tuesday, June 16 to indefinitely suspend the planned reopening of places of worship that had been slated for Friday, June 19.
“Due to the continuous increase of #COVID 19 cases in our state, we have rescinded till further notice our earlier decision to open churches and mosques for worship,” Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu tweeted.
Lagos State is the epicenter of the outbreak in the West African country with 7,897 out of the total 18,480 reported cases.
Archbishop Adewale says that “it is very unfortunate that the State Government suspended the scheduled (re)opening of Churches for Public worship because of the increase in the number of COVID-19 infections and its belief that the Church is a fertile ground for new infections.”
He adds, “We are convinced that there are higher chances of protecting people from the infection within Church premises than in other public places such as markets and motor parks due to precautions that we believe would be better respected by the faithful when they come to worship.”
In his view, “If offices and businesses could be opened with safety measures put in place, we believe that the same principle ought to apply to Churches with higher chances of better compliance.”
“We make bold to say again that the Church cares about the health and safety of the faithful as much as the State, if not more,” he says.
Despite his disappointment, the 61-year-old Nigerian Archbishop directs the “Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful of our Archdiocese to accept the situation we are in with the eyes of faith, seeing it as the Will of God for us at this time.”
“It is normal to feel disappointed and frustrated but we must never give in to discouragement rather we must remain calm and hopeful,” he says and adds, “Whatever happens to us has the mark of God on it and we should recognize it as part of God’s providence.”
In his message, the Archbishop implores the people of God under his care to “place our inability to celebrate Mass in public in the hands of God for a resolution. We are not sure of what we are battling against but we know that with God on our side, we shall overcome.”
He encourages the recitation of the Rosary on daily basis saying, “The Rosary is like a weapon that you use when you are at war and its potency has been proved over the years. Please pray the rosary every day for an end to the Coronavirus but also for the restoration of Public Mass and return to normal life.”
“Do you know that you can use the opportunity of washing your hands to pray also? It takes about 20 seconds to say “Our Father”. Use the time for washing your hands productively by saying a prayer,” Archbishop Adewale advises.
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