, 17 October, 2020 / 4:30 PM
In a collective statement announcing new directives to guide the resumption of public worship in Zimbabwe, Catholic Bishops have encouraged the people of God in the Southern African nation to take part in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in person.
“We now discourage live-streaming of Holy Masses and other relevant pastoral programmes except for the spiritual nourishment of the faithful who may be physically impeded in attending Holy Mass,” the members of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) say in their Monday, October 12 collective statement.
They add that Christians have “the obligation to attend Holy Mass if there is no major reason to absent oneself” and emphasize that “physical attendance together is more rewarding than live-streaming.”
In June, public worship in Zimbabwe was resumed under a revised guidance that allowed a 50-person congregation after President Emmerson Mnangagwa eased COVID-19 restrictions that had been in place since March.
In September, the number of worshippers was revised upwards to 100.
In their October 12 statement, the Bishops recall some of the guidelines issued when public Masses resumed in June saying, “Holy communion must only be received on the hand... the reception of the blood of Christ by concelebrants and members of the congregation remains suspended.”
“The sign of peace during Mass is also suspended,” the members of ZCBC further direct in their collective statement titled, “The Joy of Coming Together for Public Worship.”
In the statement addressed to the members of the Clergy, Religious and the Laity in Zimbabwe, the Bishops also say that all Church gatherings must be conducted “while adhering to the stipulated numbers given by the government.”
In places of worship where social distancing may not be possible, Catholic faithful must be encouraged to congregate in an open space, the Bishops say.
Zimbabwe’s seven Bishops also direct that pastoral activities such as Confirmations and Ordinations are permissible. Meetings of the Parish Councils, associations and catechumens have also been allowed at the parish and deanery levels.
However, Diocesan meetings and national congresses remain suspended until the situation in the country normalizes, ZCBC members say in their statement.
With the coronavirus still a reality in the landlocked country, they underscore, “We need to be ever conscious of the threat of COVID-19 and take all the necessary precautions, as directed by the local Parish Council, medical personnel, Ministry of Health and WHO.”
They emphasize the need to strictly adhere to the public health guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health including the wearing of face masks and social distancing during church gatherings and functions such as funerals.
The members of ZCBC also direct that Priests, Religious and Ushers ensure that the faithful adhere to “basic rules hygiene namely, washing hands with soap regularly and thoroughly, avoiding physical greeting and contact, avoiding to touch eyes, nose and mouth: covering mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing and avoiding spitting in public.”
Referencing the 8,021 cases of the coronavirus including 230 deaths and 7,627 recoveries that have been recorded in the country, the Prelates express their gratitude to God that “the impact of the pandemic was not as harsh in Zimbabwe as in other parts of the world.”
“We pledge our pastoral closeness and joint prayers through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the victims of COVID-19,” the members of ZCBC say in conclusion.
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