Churches in South Africa Reopen Under Revised COVID-19 Restrictions

Credit: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

Some Catholic Prelates in South Africa have announced the resumption of public worship in their respective jurisdictions following the readjustment of level three COVID-19 restrictions by the country’s President.

In his address to the nation Monday, February 1, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lifting of a ban on faith gatherings, allowing the faithful to congregate “but only to a maximum of 50 people for indoor events and 100 for outdoors events.”

President Ramaphosa had, on 28 December 2020, ordered, among other restrictions, a ban on public gatherings including faith-based ones, as a move to curb the rising number of infections caused by a new mutation of COVID-19 identified as 501.V2 variant.

The new strain of the pandemic has led to a spike in COVID-19 infections to 1.47 million. At least 1.33 million people have recovered while 45,605 others have succumbed to COVID-19-related complications, among them, the Coadjutor Archbishop of Durban, Abel Gabuza.

Following the easing of restrictions on gatherings, Archbishop Dabula Anthony Mpako of South Africa’s Pretoria Archdiocese instructed that all churches in his jurisdiction be reopened for “public liturgical services, including Masses with the faithful, with immediate effect.”

In the one-page statement obtained by ACI Africa, Archbishop Mkapo urged the people of God under his pastoral care to adhere to all COVID-19 prevention protocols such as wearing masks, sanitizing, and social distancing.

“We continue to pray for all those who are affected by this devastating pandemic and for the souls of those who have died from it,” the 61-year-old Archbishop Mpako said.

The sentiments of Archbishop Mpako are echoed by the Auxiliary Bishop of Cape Town Archdiocese, Sylvester David who has also announced the immediate reopening of churches in his jurisdiction for “worship and resume the celebration of the sacraments.”

“The faithful may, because of restrictions on numbers, choose to attend a weekday Mass in lieu of a Sunday celebration. This is to be encouraged and where necessary catechesis ought to be given,” Bishop David says in his February 2 statement obtained by ACI Africa.

In his two-page statement, the member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) offers guidance on the celebration of various Sacraments, and encourages the administration of Baptism, Penance and Reconciliation, and Anointing the Sick while observing the laid down COVID-19 protocols.

Regarding the Sacrament of the Holy Matrimony, Bishop David says the Archdiocese will adhere to the February 2 guidelines offered by the Western Cape government directing that “weddings can only take place inside a religious institution with a limit of 50 persons only. No weddings will be allowed outside any religious institutions as it is regarded as a gathering.”

“The Sacrament of Confirmation will be celebrated after the Easter celebrations. Only in cases where there is a carryover from the period of the lockdown when churches had to be closed, we will make an exception and confirm during the first five weeks of Lent,” Bishop David says in the February 2 statement.

He adds, “In all cases, whether celebrating any of the sacraments or a funeral, brevity must be observed. Homilies must of necessity be curtailed to include only what is essential for growth in the faith.”

On his part, the Bishop of Kroonstad Diocese, Peter John Holiday announced the reopening of churches in his jurisdiction, while observing previously-laid down guidelines such as limited number of congregants and wearing of masks.

In his February 2 statement seen by ACI Africa, Bishop Holiday announced a February 11 meeting with the members of the Clergy ministering in the Diocese to discuss the way forward regarding other celebrations such as Lent and Easter seasons.

“Let us continue to pray for the healing of the Coronavirus in the world,” Bishop Holiday implored in his February 2 statement, adding, “We remember in prayer all who have passed away their families and loved ones.”


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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
[email protected]