By Leopold Munhende
THOUSANDS of Christians who would usually flood streets across the country to celebrate their annual feast of Palm Sunday were conspicuous by their absence on Sunday after the country has imposed a ban on church gatherings coupled with a three-week lockdown to try and contain the spread of coronavirus.
Even Jerusalem’s Cathedral, the Holy Sepulchre, widely believed to be the site of Jesus’ tomb was forced to close.
The last time in living memory it did that was in 1349 at the height of another world pandemic that claimed between 75 and 200 million people.
“It goes to show that it (Covid-19) is serious,” said Anglican Bishop for Harare Diocese Farai Mutamiri.
“I can testify that I have never had a Palm Sunday service without palms. That alone signifies that this pandemic is real, and we need to take heed of calls coming from the government to stay at home.
“With Covid-19, we were unable to participate and follow the proceedings that we normally do as churches.
“Coupled with that is the sad news that Holy Sepulchre closed its doors for the first time since 1349, so you can see the challenges brought by Covid-19.”
The Anglican Church’s St Mary’s Cathedral in Harare was closed to the public with only Bishop Mutamiri and a few church officials and members of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) at the premises where they delivered a Mass live on Facebook.
Added Mutamiri: “We need to participate in our salvation and it entails us to retreat up until the fury of the Lord is over.”
The Roman Catholic Church communicated it had suspended all services until the pandemic has been contained.
A snap survey by NewZimbabwe.com indicated none of its parishes took part in the traditional processions that usually characterise the feast that marks the start of Easter.
Methodist Churches that also celebrate Palm Sunday in Harare’s CBD were also closed to the public.
Zimbabwe is currently under on a 21-day lockdown announced by President Emmerson recently.
Since the outbreak of the disease in China December last year, over a million people have been infected with more than 64 000 lives lost so far.
Zimbabwe has recorded nine cases in less than three weeks with just a single related death.
President Mnangagwa has urged locals not to abandon their guard on the false impression that the disease cannot catch up with them.