, 12 July, 2020 / 8:34 PM
Catholic Bishops in Senegal have announced their collective decision to keep churches closed even after the government eased COVID-19 restrictions and urged the faithful “to be patient in faith and in hope.”
“Despite our common thirst to find our way back to our churches, we, your Bishops, urge you to be patient in faith and in Hope,” the Bishops say in their collective statement issued July 10.
They explain, “The present situation, from the opinions we have been able to gather, does not militate in favour of an immediate opening of our churches for worship.”
In the statement signed by the Archbishop of Dakar, Benjamin Ndiaye, the Bishops highlight the background of their decision saying, “The representatives of the Ecclesiastical Province of Dakar beforehand, gathered the opinion of doctors and health personnel of the community.”
They continue, “The daily communication of the Ministry of Health and Social Action reports a persistence of new cases of COVID-19. It also points out two phenomena: on the one hand, the spread of the pandemic in areas and regions initially spared and, on the other hand, the steady rate of the curve around 9 percent to 10 percent of the subjects tested, a rate that could increase in the days or weeks to come.”
On July 4, Senegal’s government announced it has decided to roll back some lockdown restrictions in the country after two nights of violent protests against the prolonged curfew and lockdown, according to reports.
Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye said the start of the dusk to dawn curfew would be pushed back by two hours, to 11:00 pm and that restrictions on travel between Senegal’s regions would be lifted.
“Gatherings in public or private places, churches, restaurants, gyms, casinos will also benefit from these relaxation measures,” Minister Ndiaye added.
The West African nation has reported at least 8,135 cases of COVID-19 including 5,446 recoveries and 148 related deaths, according to statistics from Worlddometers.
In their June 10 statement, Catholic Bishops in Senegal emphasize the need “to assess the pandemic situation after the reopening of markets, the resumption of intercity transport, the reopening of classes and the lifting of the state of emergency.”
“The increase in the number of cases follows the non-respect of preventive measures by the in the fight against COVID-19,” the Bishops say.
The Bishops also warn of the probability of “a second wave of contamination that could lead to another lockdown,” adding that these trends show how “delicate the current situation is and how much caution and wisdom is required.”
As a way forward, the Bishops say that they envisage the reopening of places of worship and the resumption of pastoral activities around mid-August “if the situation improves.”
They ask parish communities to “carry out a pastoral reflection on health measures adapted to each locality.”
They add, “This inclusive approach, reminds us all of our collective responsibilities in the common struggle against this COVID-19 pandemic.”
“In the name of our faith, which invites us to pray in all circumstances, also in the name of our duty as citizens working in solidarity and the duty of Christian charity, we ask you to persevere in this fight by respecting the standards of health safety which are constantly reminded to us by the competent services. In so doing, we are preserving our lives and the lives of others,” the Bishops conclude.
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