Catholic church suspends obligatory mass

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By Staff Reporter

THE Catholic Church has suspended mandatory church services in line with a Tuesday government ban on all gatherings and church services as a precautionary measure against the ever-present threat of a coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The Catholic Church regards the Easter period as obligatory, meaning congregants are compelled to attend every Mass and gathering during the period which starts with Lent until Easter Sunday.

However, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) met Tuesday and resolved to suspend some events and rituals in light of the coronavirus.

Catholics are no longer allowed to shake hands in church when giving the sign of peace and should not receive communion with their tongues but using hands.

“In the wake of the global outbreak of Covid-19, we wish to add our voice to the many other voices including WHO, Government, and in particular the President and the Ministry of Health on the pandemic.

“Prevention is better than cure and the ZCBC fully supports the various calls to take serious and drastic measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country whose urgency cannot be overemphasized,” read a Tuesday statement by the church’s governing body in the country.

The call follows President Mnangagwa’s declaration of coronavirus a national disaster and ban on weddings, church gatherings and foreign travels to countries worst affected by the rampaging disease.

The ZCBC said prevention is fundamental in fighting the virus.

“It is even more essential in our country where hospital structures are not fully equipped to support the influx of a greater number of seriously ill people. The Sunday obligation to attend mass for the elderly, children, the sick and the vulnerable is lifted until further notice. Vulnerable faithful should not feel guilty for failing to
attend Sunday mass,” said ZCBC.

The ZCBC, made up of eight bishops, said congregants can follow church services on live streaming and can pray at home as family or individuals.

The bishops said the church is addressing and dealing with concerns in its public worship and liturgical services.

“Reception of the precious blood by concelebrants and the congregation has been suspended, reception of the Holy Communion must only be on the hand not on the tongue and sign of peace during mass has been suspended.

Dipping hands in Holy water fonts at entrance is also suspended while priests and other religious are encouraged to practice hygiene by washing their hands before and after liturgical services.

The Priests have the discretion to handle some issues but following safety guidelines.

The ZCBC said it will advice in due course how the Easter period will be handled.

“Nearer the time we will once again assess the situation with the help of health experts to propose safe alternatives for some obligatory rituals in the church such as the washing of the feet, veneration of
the cross and Easter vigil on Saturday.

The church is also calling upon all its members to embrace public education on the coronavirus given by various health agencies.