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Leadership of Zambia’s Ndola Diocese Contemplates Suspending Public Worship

The leadership of the Catholic Diocese of Ndola in Zambia is considering the suspension of Liturgical celebrations in public amid an increase in reported cases of COVID-19 and laxity in observing preventive measures.

In a Wednesday, January 25 letter, the Director of Pastoral Programmes in the Diocese, Fr. Matthew Mumba, indicates that the consideration to suspend public worship and gatherings is influenced by a “noted relaxed attitude” on the part of the faithful in implementing COVID-19 measures.

“The Diocesan Administration under the guidance of Rt. Rev. Dr. Benjamin Phiri is contemplating the stopping of public worship and gatherings altogether in the Diocese if there will be no change in terms of the noted relaxed attitude,” Fr. Mumba says in his letter obtained by ACI Africa. 

He explains, “In most of our Parishes and institutions, the preventive measures of COVID-19 have been relaxed very much and, in some cases, even completely abandoned.”

The lax adherence to the health guidelines is “quite frightening as it is life threatening to our people,” the Zambian Cleric adds. 

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Eight Parishes in Zambia’s Ndola Diocese have been closed after Priests and members of staff working in these Parishes tested positive for COVID-19.

In his January 25 letter, the Director of Pastoral Programmes in the Diocese calls on Parish Priests and their collaborators to emphasize adherence to the COVID-19 preventive measures, which the country’s Ministry of Health issued. 

Fr. Mumba goes on to urge those at the helm of Diocesan Institutions that record cases of the coronavirus to “suspend and close all the activities for fourteen days.”

He further says that for the moment, the celebration of Holy Eucharist and meetings of various Parish groups be limited to one hour.

The member of the Order of Franciscans Minor, Conventuals (OFM Conv.), also says that church groups limit their gatherings 30 participants at a time. 

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On behalf of the Local Ordinary of Ndola, Bishop Benjamin Phiri, Fr. Mumba urges “all the Major Superiors of the Religious Institutes of men and women present in the Diocese to strongly urge their members to remain in their respective Religious communities to avoid unnecessary movements and contacts with others.” 

“Only those with critical roles and duties are to be permitted to move and will have to return immediately to their respective communities upon completion of the assigned tasks,” he says in reference to the Religious men and women serving in the Zambian Diocese. 

The directives in Ndola Diocese come amid an upsurge in the reported cases of COVID-19 infections in Zambia.

The Southern African nation has recorded at least 48,911 cases of COVID-19 including 688 deaths and 41,282 recoveries.

On January 13, Bishop Moses Hamungole of the country’s Monze Diocese passed on due to COVID-19 related complications while receiving treatment at the Lusaka-based Levy Mwanawasa Hospital.

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Fr. Patrick Muyenga, a Capuchin Friar, and Fr. Charles Chilinda, a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), also succumbed to the coronavirus while receiving treatment at Lusaka’s Maina Soko Military Hospital on January 21.

In their collective statement of January 8, Catholic Bishops in the country expressed concern about the increase in the reported COVID-19 cases and called on the people of God in Zambia to exercise vigilance and observe precautionary measures previously issued by various authorities.

“There is an escalation in both the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths,” the members of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) said in their collective statement. 

In the statement signed by the Director for Health in ZCCB, Bishop Patrick Chisanga, the Prelates also called on every Zambian to “critically think about protecting yourselves and others.”

“It is the moral responsibility of everyone to ensure that Zambia does not plunge into the undesirable worst possible scenario,” ZCCB members said January 8.