Days after the Federal Government of Nigeria lifted restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, the leadership of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja has announced the resumption of public Mass and outlined a raft of measures aimed at containing the possible spread of the coronavirus disease.
The directives range from hygiene, the time between masses, and the handling of offerings among others.
“Parishes should ensure that places of worship and church premises are clean and ventilated at all times,” the Archbishop of Abuja, Ignatius Ayau Kaigama directed.
In his letter issued Thursday, June 4, Archbishop Kaigama asks all Parishes in the Archdiocese to provide “handwashing facilities at strategic places, hand sanitizers at entry and exit points of all church buildings, including church conveniences, facilities for proper waste disposal and infrared thermometers which should be used at entry points.”
“The first Masses in all parishes and institutions must not begin earlier than 5 a.m. and must end no later than 8 p.m.,” the Nigerian Archbishop directs, adding that “all liturgical celebration must not last beyond an hour” and that “there should be at least thirty minutes intervals between Masses.”
“Only one third (⅓) of the holding capacity of the Church is allowed per liturgical celebration,” he further directed.
The Archbishop called for a collaborative approach in the activities in Parishes saying that “the number of Masses in the parish, suitable times for Masses, spaces that may be used for the celebration of Masses, Parishioners who may attend Masses” be decided by Parish Pastoral Councils (PPCs) under the direction of the Parish Priests.
Nigeria has recorded at least 11,516 cases of COVID-19 including 3,232 recoveries and 323 related deaths.
On Monday, June 1, the chairman of Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha announced a four-week easing of COVID-19 restrictions effective June 2.
In a televised briefing, Mustapha said that churches and mosques are free to resume worship services while adhering to conditions such as wearing of face masks, proper washing or sanitizing of hands and the maintaining of physical distance.
During the celebration of Holy Eucharist, the Local Ordinary of Abuja directs, “all liturgical ministers in the sanctuary should wear face masks, except the concelebrating priests.”
“No more than one (1) Lector and two (2) Mass servers may stay in the Sanctuary with the Priests,” Archbishop Kaigama further directs in his June 4 statement and adds, “All the readings, prayers of the faithful and announcements should be taken by one person.”
“To ensure that the faithful whose hands would have been sanitized would have received the Holy Communion on their palms before touching money with their hands,” Archbishop Kaigama directs that the collection of offertory takes “place after the post-communion prayer.”
Extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion will be required to sanitize their hands before distributing communion, which should be received “directly on the palm.”
The sacrament of confession, the Archbishop directs, be celebrated in spacious venues that allow “required physical distancing and utmost confidentiality and physical distancing.”
He cautions against compromising the sacredness of the sacrament saying, “No confession through telephone or Zoom teleconferencing.”
For the Sacrament of matrimony, the 62-year-old Archbishop said it “may be administered taking into account the observance of physical distancing, except for the couple whom physical nearness is inevitable.”.
“Priests may celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism (for infants and children) within or outside Mass,” he said and directed that while administering the sacrament, cotton buds “be used for anointing and properly disposed afterwards” and that Clerics should not baptize more than ten persons in any liturgical celebration.
“Celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation has been put on hold for now,” Archbishop Kaigama announced.
He dispensed “those above 70 years, children below 10 years, nursing mothers, those who feel sick and those who don’t feel safe or comfortable enough to gather in a crowd” from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass and advised that these categories of people stay at home.