, 29 July, 2020 / 8:55 PM
An Archbishop in Senegal has, in an interview on the challenges facing the local Church amid COVID-19 restrictions, said that the faith of the people of God in the West African nation “has been strengthened” through family prayer.
“Our faith has been strengthened even as we can no longer attend Masses as before. We have been praying a lot in our families,” Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye said in a report published Wednesday, July 29.
The Archbishop of Dakar expressed his appreciation for “the spiritual communion that Christians have been able to experience when they were frustrated by the ordinary character of the celebrations that had been suspended until now,” adding that the Church “is experiencing a certain spirituality due to the closure of places of worship.”
When the first case of COVID-19 was declared in the West African nation in March, the Senegalese Prelate noted, “We felt challenged as Christians and as Senegalese citizens. It was a question of preserving life and therefore of taking all the measures that are ordered by the health authorities to protect our lives and those of others.”
In response to this challenge, Bishops in Senegal directed that the celebration of public Mass be suspended alongside other public liturgical services.
“It has been a great suffering,” the Local Ordinary of Dakar said in reference to the closure of places of worship and added, “I appreciate the way in which the communities quickly organized themselves to use the media and, so if they could not participate in the Mass, at least they could follow via the social networks.”
In a press release issued July 10, Catholic Bishops in Senegal 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.”
The West African nation has reported at least 9,961 cases of COVID-19 including 6,655 recoveries and 200 related deaths, according to statistics from Worldometers.
In the July 29 report, the 71-year-old Senegalese Prelate explained, “Our decision not to immediately reopen places of worship is to allow each bishop to evaluate the conditions for a gradual resumption of worship in his diocese, making sure the preventive measures prescribed by the health authorities are respected.”
“The Senegalese State had anticipated the lockdown by creating family grants. Food distribution was organized throughout the country by identifying the poorest families. This has relieved a number of families and we welcome this solidarity initiative,” Archbishop Ndiaye noted in appreciation.
He further observed that the government’s intervention “does not prevent the needs of families from still being there and people from having to brave the risks of the spread of the disease in order to have enough to live on.”
“This pandemic is, therefore, a signal to alert us of our way of life, often in connection with our environment,” the Archbishop of Dakar added.
As a way forward, the Archbishop has appealed for “patience and perseverance” before the resumption of public worship, adding that “self and collective discipline must be promoted for the good of all.”
“We envisage the reopening of places of worship and the resumption of pastoral activities around mid-August if the situation improves,” Archbishop Ndiaye said and added, “We ask the Lord to continue to strengthen our faith and we pray strongly to him to deliver us from this pandemic.”
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