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Ahead of Ash Wednesday, Archdiocese in Ghana Issues Fresh Liturgical Guidelines

Ahead of the beginning of the Lenten Season, the leadership of Ghana’s Accra Archdiocese has issued fresh COVID-19 measures to guide liturgical celebrations.

This year’s Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent, will be February 17.

In his Thursday, February 4 statement obtained by ACI Africa, Archbishop John Bonaventure Kwofie of Accra Archdiocese makes reference to the guidelines for the distribution of the Ashes, which the Congregation for Divine Worship issued.

“These guidelines should be adopted and adapted to ensure that there is NO contact between the Priest and the faithful receiving the ashes,” Archbishop Kwofie directs.

The Archbishop goes on to highlight the two recommended options saying, “The Priest, wearing his face-mask, sprinkles a pinch of ashes on the forehead of the faithful in silence.”

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In the second option, the member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) says, “The Priest, wearing his face-mask, uses a new disposal spoon to distribute the ashes in silence while the faithful receive it in their left palms and sign themselves with their right hands.”

In the case of the second option, Archbishop Kwofie says, “the distribution of ashes should be done post-communion.” 

Other fresh directives involve weddings and funerals, crusades and pilgrimages, and catechism.

In his statement, the Local Ordinary of Accra permits “only private burials at the cemetery with a maximum of twenty-five (25) people” and directs that “parish/church halls or compounds are strictly not allowed for wedding parties and funeral gatherings.”

In addition, “there shall be no extra sitting arrangements (under canopies) outside the church building,” he says.

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Archbishop Kwofie has also suspended all gatherings after funeral and wedding Masses in accordance with the January 31 directives on COVID-19 issued by the country’s President Nana Akuffo-Addo.

Ghana has recorded 69,255 cases of COVID-19 including 440 deaths and 62,729 recoveries. 

The Archbishop of Accra encourages that catechism classes within the Archdiocese resume “provided all the required protocols can be observed” and adds, “Resumption of catechism classes may depend on each parochial circumstance.”

“Even where it is adjudged appropriate to resume catechism lessons, only children of ages ten (10) years and above may attend the classes, and only after the children and their parents have been given the required orientation and the protocols put in place,” the 62-year-old Archbishop says. 

He further directs that liturgical celebrations including Holy Eucharist take a maximum of two hours. 

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Acknowledging that Parish premises are crowded on Sundays, the Archbishop discourages “meeting of societies and groups on that day.”

Instead of meeting on Sundays, he suggests that the meetings in Church premises “be held on other days or they could be done online.” 

To achieve the social distancing health measure during Masses, the Ghanaian Prelate permits Clerics in the Archdiocese to celebrate “two Masses on weekdays and three Masses on Sundays.”

“Masses can be celebrated concurrently in the church and at the grotto or in the Parish hall at any given time,” says the Archbishop. 

In the statement obtained by ACI Africa, the Archbishop urges the people of God under his pastoral care to “strictly adhere” to all COVID-19 prevention directives “for the sake of our health, as well as the health of our families, friends, communities and the nation as a whole.”

“I encourage you to earnestly pray for the end to the COVID-19 pandemic so that we return to our regular liturgical life,” Archbishop Kwofie says in his four-page statement dated February 4.