, 10 August, 2020 / 7:53 PM
Catholic Bishops in Senegal's Dakar Ecclesiastical Province have extended the suspension of public Mass in the region due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the West African nation, a situation that has forced the government to reintroduce restrictive measures.
Since the first COVID-19 case in March, Senegal has recorded at least 11,175 infections, 7,352 recoveries and 66 related deaths.
“In view of all this, we, your Father Bishops of Senegal, maintain our fervent appeal to perseverance in patience and prudence. The current situation does not militate in favor of an immediate resumption of Christian worship,” the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province say in their Saturday, August 8 collective message.
In the statement signed by the Local Ordinary of Dakar, Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye, the Bishops add, “The current situation of this pandemic, both nationally and internationally, is far from being under control.”
In the statement seen by ACI Africa, the Bishops representing Dakar Archdiocese and the dioceses of Kaolack, Kolda, Tambacounda, Thies, Ziguinchor and Saint-Louis du Sénégal however clarify that “churches (will) remain open to the faithful for personal devotions.”
They leave requests of a pastoral nature such as baptism, marriage, and funeral to the discretion of Priests who they stress “must, in a spirit of dialogue with the lay faithful and of pastoral communion, ensure that everything is done in the spirit of compliance with barrier measures, with a small number of faithful, so as not to encourage the spread of the disease.”
“What matters is people's lives and health, which must not be endangered,” the Bishops say in their August 8 statement.
They remind the faithful that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, ceremonies such as Priestly Ordinations and Religious Professions “can only be done within a restricted framework and in compliance with the sanitary measures required by the situation, with the permanent concern to protect human life.”
On the occasion of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated August 15, the Bishops urge the Christians “to avoid the usual trips and gatherings, and to invoke, with fervor, the maternal protection of Mary for our families, our country, and the whole world.”
Senegal’s President, Macky Sall declared a state of emergency and curfew on March 21 as a means to curb the spread of the pandemic.
The restrictions were lifted at the end of June, and reintroduced on Saturday, August 8 due to a “pronounced rise” in COVID-19 infections.
Announcing the reintroduction of restrictions with “immediate effect,” Senegalese Minister of the Interior, Aly Ngouye Ndiaye noted that since the lifting of the state of emergency and curfew, there had been a “certain laxity” amongst the members of the public in observing COVID-19 barrier measures.
Among the measures reintroduced include "a ban on gatherings at beaches, sports grounds, public spaces and theatres" as well as "prohibition of all demonstrations on the public highway, especially in the Dakar region."
“Dear Faithful to Christ, in communion with you, we address our prayers trusting to the God of all mercy and all protection. Assured of the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Deliverance, Queen of All Saints, we submit this request to her, in communion with Pope Francis:” the Bishops say in the statement.
“O Mary, Comforter of the afflicted, embrace all your children in tribulation and get God to intervene with his almighty hand to free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can resume its normal course in serenity,” they pray.
The Bishops continue, “We entrust ourselves to You, you who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, O Merciful, O Merciful, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen."
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