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Zambia’s Ndola Diocese Lifts Suspension on Church Activities amid COVID-19 Decline

Bishop Benjamin Phiri of Zambia's Ndola Diocese. Credit: Ndola Diocese

The Catholic Diocese of Ndola in Zambia has lifted the suspension on a series of Church activities following a decline in the reported cases of COVID-19 in the Southern African nation.

In a Tuesday, August 31 statement, the Local Ordinary of Ndola provides “revised measures” to guide participation in public worship.

“As earlier promised in my previous communique to review the guidelines after a certain period of time, and in line with the recently pronounced measures by the Government of the Republic of Zambia, I provide the following revised measures in this period effective today,” Bishop Benjamin Phiri says.

Bishop Phiri directs that the “celebration of Daily Weekday Masses which was reduced to once a week, can now begin to revert to the old practice of being celebrated daily in the Parishes, and institutions; Convents inclusive.” 

“Sunday Masses, which were reduced and left to the discretional judgement of individual Parish Priests, can now be increased depending on the population of particular parishes to accord the faithful an opportunity to worship in a well-spaced and healthy environment keeping in mind the required social distance,” Bishop Phiri adds. 

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The Church leader further recommends and encourages the leadership of Parishes to “maintain celebrating Vigil Sunday Masses on Saturdays to have an even distribution of numbers of worshippers at a given Sunday celebration.”

“Parish Priests are urged to keep the celebrations as short as possible, thus the singing during Mass must continue to be regulated to that effect,” the Bishop of Ndola further directs.

The Southern African nation has been experiencing a decline in reported cases of COVID-19 since June.

The country has had at least 206,327 reported cases of the coronavirus, including 3,602 fatalities and 201,124 recoveries.

In his August 31 message, Bishop Phiri says, “Radio Icengelo Management must continue to work hand-in-hand with the Office of the Director of Pastoral Programs of the Diocese in devising a schedule of live streaming the celebration of Daily Masses on Radio and Facebook for the faithful in the Diocese.”

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“In the near future, the celebration of live daily Mass on radio must be upheld as part of normal radio programming,” he adds.

Bishop Phiri further directs that Parish Priests “play a major role on funerals, as they are the people on the ground. Thus, each individual Parish Priest will continue to determine how funerals will be celebrated in their respective Parishes. What must be avoided is the huge gathering of people at funerals.”

“Priests must ensure that whatever form of funeral celebration they choose, strict Health guidelines are followed. Priests may conduct burial rites at the graveyard,” the Zambian Bishop adds.

He goes on to direct, “Meetings of Small Christian Communities in all Parishes can gradually resume. Lay Groups' meetings and all other gatherings that were earlier suspended, can also resume gradually in small numbers at all levels.”

“All Catechism classes which were earlier suspended can gradually begin just as the schools have safely re-opened,” he further says, and adds, “Masses for the children can also resume with proper assessments in place to ensure the safety of our children.”

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In his August 31 statement, the Local Ordinary of Ndola encourages Catholics to “do voluntary tests for COVID-19”.

“There is no shame in advising other people correctly on the status of oneself regarding the COVID-19 disease. Anyone not feeling well should immediately abstain from taking part in any communal liturgical celebration,” the Catholic Church leader says.

He urges members of the Clergy, women and men Religious, and the Lay faithful to adhere to COVID-19 health precautions for “each other's well-being.”

“Let us remain a faith community that takes responsibility for each other's well-being. As we face and combat the COVID-19 pandemic, let us unite in prayer,” the Zambian Bishop says, entrusting the people of God under his pastoral care to the “maternal intercession of our Lady and Mother, Mary, the Immaculately Conceived.”