The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, KCCB, has insisted that the Catholic places of worship will not be shut down due to CoronaVirus fears. According to the Bishops, the Churches will remain open so as Faithfuls can find solace and a place to run to. This goes against the Government’s directive on total shutdown of all social places and learning institutions.
“In the wake of the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Country and the world over, we are aware that there is heightened sensitivity and fear of further infections. On Sunday 8th March 2020, the Government of Kenya issued the directives on containing the spread of the virus. On Saturday 7th March 2020, we as the Bishops’ Conference had given some guidelines on how to curb the spread of the Coronavirus in our places of Worship,” Says Most Rev. Philip Anyolo who is the KCCB Chairperson.
In an effort to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, the Bishops have seen the need to give further Pastoral guidelines and precautionary measures in regard to the celebration of Holy Masses and other Liturgical activities. Here are the guidelines from the Bishops as contained in their signed memo dated March 19, 2020:
- Catholic churches will remain open; they are not closing. They will be focal point of prayer, where faithfuls will find solace and strength from God.
- The priests are asked to give Christ Faithful the messages of hope and encouragement. These messages touching on the Coronavirus must not create panic and anxiety, but rather, it should encourage the people to confront the current situation with serenity and courage knowing that we shall overcome the virus with the help of God.
- The Holy Masses will continue to be celebrated in our churches but the Bishops’ Conference recommends that the Diocesan Bishops grant temporary dispensation from the Sunday Obligation for the next three weeks for any Faithful who may need it (c.f Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2181). However, those who are able to attend Sunday Mass may do so observing all the measures of prudence. At the same time, the Priests have asked to exercise caution in regard to large gatherings, that is, keeping the recommended distance of one metre. Priests to strictly exercise caution regarding the large gatherings. However, Masses should be brief.
- Priests to be available to the Christians for Holy Communion outside the Mass, provided they do so in the Church in accordance with the Communion Rite. All Christians, especially those in restriction, are encouraged to continue benefiting from the Spiritual Communion or Communion of desire.
- Those Christians who are impeded from attending Sunday Mass can also benefit from Live-streaming of celebration of Holy Mass through Televisions and Radio Stations. Catholic radios are urged to transmit live Masses.
- The Bishops say there should be measures to discourage big events and Liturgical celebrations involving large gatherings of the Faithful.
- In administering the Confession sacrament, the bishops discourage face-to-face confessions; and recommend that both the Confessor and the penitent should make use of the Confessionals provided within the linen device and preferably use protective masks.
- For the time being, they discourage the celebration of the Masses in small Christian communities. Instead, priests can celebrate daily Masses in the main church or the Outstations for the intentions of the Christians taking into consideration one-metre distance.
- On funerals, weddings, and Way of the Cross, the Bishops encourage the Priests and the Christian Communities to follow the directives given by the Government and the guidelines given by KCCB on limiting the number of participants and avoiding large crowds and common eating. They also ask for the suspension of all major National, Diocesan and Parish gatherings.
- Those handling church offerings should wear protective devices, like gloves and masks where necessary.
- The Bishops are asking our dear priests to celebrate Votive Masses of the Mercy of God as provided in the Sacramentary. In addition, they ask all believers to continue praying to God to end the coronavirus pandemic and pray for the quick recovery of the infected persons.
- For other activities like Spiritual Programmes and Exercises, the priests should use their discretion in consultation with their Local Ordinaries and have recourse to the technology at our disposal.
- Guidelines on the celebration of Sacraments and the Easter Celebrations will be given in due course.
The Bishops are asking Kenyans to keep observing the basic precautionary hygienic measures given by the Ministry of Health and KCCB that will help minimize the spread of the virus as well as protect oneself from being infected by COVID-19.
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