Mixed Reactions as Mozambique Extends Ban on Church Gatherings for the Third Time

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Maputo, Mozambique.
Credit: Public Domain

Places of worship in Mozambique will remain closed for another 30 days in a new set of measures by the President of the Southern African nation, Filipe Jaicinto Nyusi who extended a ban on social gatherings in the country starting Monday, June 29.

In one of the fresh regulations that were issued through a government decree to contain the spread of COVID-19, the head of State banned the holding of “collective religious services and celebrations,” noting that the celebrations were possible transmission spots for the virus “because they are carried out indoors.”

The decree has been highly contested in the country, with many questioning the logic behind banning public worship while allowing learning in classrooms.

“Just as schools are opening, religious activities should be allowed to resume,” said Fr. Nelson Bernardo Covete in an interview with ACI Africa correspondent following the contested presidential declarations.

“Will the students be learning outside under trees,” the Cleric posed, and added, “Students will be meeting in classrooms, just as Christians who meet in churches to worship. We should really start (thinking) of how to gradually open our places of worship.”

Fr. Nelson suggests that for a start, communities should be identified within the Church in the Southern African country, which meet minimal safety conditions for public worship.

And with a minimum number of believers, the churches should gradually resume normally until everyone is incorporated in worship once the country handles the COVID-19 situation, he suggests.

“We are, in a way, being inconsistent in our decisions when we totally ban services and go ahead to open schools where children are most vulnerable,” the Catholic Cleric underscored. 

Reiterating the message of the Cleric, the country’s Minister of Constitutional and Religious Affairs, Helena Kida, in reference to the Monday, June 29 declaration from the head of State said, “This presidential decree, in addition to prohibiting, limits.”

Regarding the ban on public worship, Fr. Miguel Gonçalves, Director of Rádio Maria Moçambique agreed with the Presidential decree, noting the difficulty of controlling different faith-based entities in the country and how they will conduct their services in an orderly and safe manner should they be allowed to resume public worship.

“In learning institutions, order can be achieved by allowing, say, institutions of higher learning to start and be joined by the other classes. When it comes to religious gatherings, however, it isn't easy to say that only adults will be allowed to go to Church. This way, controlling churches isn't an easy task,” said Fr. Miguel.

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
[email protected]