, 28 July, 2020 / 9:05 PM
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo has extended the duration of public worship from one hour to two hours effective August 1, in response to a petition that was made by religious leaders in the west African country.
“I have sorely missed going to Church, as I am sure many others have,” the Ghanaian President said in his nationwide address on Sunday, July 26.
He added, “I am, therefore, very happy to announce that, in consultation with our Church leaders, from 1st August, 2020, the restrictions on the number of congregants worshipping at a time in Church will be lifted, with the length of worship extended from one 1 to 2 hours per service.”
Key on the list of guidelines for safe reopening of places of worship in Ghana was the directive that religious proceedings be conducted within one hour.
The extension of duration for public worship, which takes effect from August 1 is part of the Government’s decision to embark upon the implementation of phase two of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in some sectors of the country.
Early July, leaders of various Christian groups in Ghana petitioned the President to reconsider the government directive that church services be conducted within one hour.
“The leaders of the various Christian groups are of the view that the time allocated for church services needs to be reconsidered since religious groups and for that matter, churches have abided by all regulations and safety protocols laid down by the government,” Archbishop Philip Naameh, President of Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference (GCBC), told local media on Wednesday, July 1.
The Ghanaian Archbishop added, “But honestly if we have proved that we can observe all other safety measures, including church fumigation, wearing of masks, hand sanitization and avoiding all manner of physical interactions, I think we can comfortably conduct our services within a little more than an hour. An hour and a half is all we ask for.”
According to Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo, the decision for the extension was due to the strict adherence to the safety protocol to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
“I extend my deepest appreciation to our religious leaders for their strict adherence to the safety protocols, which have prevented any known outbreaks, since they restarted their services,” President Akufo-Addo said.
“Our Churches and Mosques have been open for prayers and services for the past seven weeks, adhering to 25 percent occupancy or up to one hundred congregants over a time duration of up to one hour per service,” he said.
Ghana’s President appealed to Christian leaders desirous of implementing “this enhanced easing directive, must ensure that congregants wear face masks at all times, and the one metre social distancing rule is scrupulously applied.”
He announced that the guidelines for Christian churches also apply to worship in Mosques, noting that, “With greater numbers of congregants likely to return for worship, I would, respectfully, ask the religious leaders to pay even greater attention to the fresh air ventilation of their premises, rather than relying on the use of air conditioners.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Ghana’s National Catholic Laity Council, Prof. Elias Sowley has highly commended the government for recognizing the full compliance by churches to merit the extension of the duration of public worship.
He told ACI Africa Correspondent on Monday, July 27 that for the past seven weeks, Mass attendance was below what was expected. He cited the example of his Parish, the Sacred Parish in Tamale, where “two parallel Eucharist celebrations were arranged on Sundays but there was an initial low participation.”
“The initial low participation can be attributed to the fact there are parishioners with children who can’t attend because they don’t have alternative care for them at home and also, the elderly couldn’t attend because they have been advised to stay away,” he said, noting that attendance has been increasing over the past few weeks.
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