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Malawi COVID-19: Bishops issue pastoral guidelines

As the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) continues to spread around the world and more countries in Africa are confirming positive cases, the Catholic Bishops of Malawi have issued pastoral guidelines for liturgical celebrations in an effort to help prevent the spread of the virus among Christians.

Sr. Jecinter Antoinette Okoth, FSSA –Nairobi, Kenya

“In the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in many parts of the world, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) enacts the following precautionary measures with regard to the celebration of the Holy Mass, other liturgical services and as general guidelines. These are only temporary measures until the situation stabilises,” reads in part the statement signed by ECM President, Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa of the Archdiocese of Blantyre.

Priests need to preach hope

In the first place, the Bishops emphasise that “Priests should give the Catholic faithful messages of hope. Messages on coronavirus must not create panic and despair.” They add, the “Catholic faithful should be encouraged to wash their hands before entering Churches or other places of worship. Similarly, Holy water fonts should be drained. Instead, Holy water should be kept at the Sacristy where the faithful can collect (it) for their individual use,” reads another preventive measure.

Avoid overcrowding the pews

The Bishops urge parish priests to ensure that there is no overcrowding in the in pews. They also discourage the sign of peace in the form of form of a handshake, hug or any other bodily contact during Mass.

No communion on the tongue

Concerning receiving the body of Christ, the “Catholic faithful should line-up when receiving Holy Communion not kneeling in order to ensure proper distance between them” and “reception of the Eucharist should be done in the hand not on the tongue.” Besides, where concelebrations take place, priests should receive Holy Communion by Intinction.

The Bishops also recommend that ministers should thoroughly wash hands before and after distribution of the Eucharist. Other measures include care with offertory gifts and the handling of money.

Health Awareness

The Catholic Bishops in Malawi further explain that, “Experts in the medical field should be invited to give talks in Churches and schools on coronavirus. Efforts should be made to have a technical team of doctors that will analyse the situation and give updates and advice,” the Bishops said.

Seek guidance before inviting partners

“Commissions working with foreign nationals coming from destinations where cases of Coronavirus have been identified should first seek guidance and information from Catholic Secretariat or any relevant Government authorities before inviting them into the country.”

Caution on Second hand clothing

The Bishops also caution about second hand clothes coming from abroad saying, “The same applies to material donations such as second hand clothes – kaunjika coming from abroad.”

Open-air Masses to avoid crowding

The use of the Public Address systems so that the Catholic faithful can follow Mass from outside the Church in order to avoid congestion in the Church was another of the measures outlined by the Church leaders.

14 March 2020, 08:45