Agenzia Fides- Lomè
The Archbishop was speaking about how the Church in the small West African country is faring amidst the COVID-19 emergency. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Togo has 76 COVID-19 confirmed cases with three deaths, so far.
Archbishop Barrigah-Benissan explains, “The first word is ‘prevention.’ We have decided to observe the measures recommended by the government and have closed Churches. During Holy Week, Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral without the participation of the people of God. The same goes for parishes.”
“The second watch-word is, “prayer:” “We also want to emphasise personal and family prayer. We must ask the Lord to have mercy on us. This pandemic goes beyond our (human) ability; we pray and celebrate Mass to implore the Lord, ask for the healing of the sick and the liberation from this plague. It is also an opportunity to ask for forgiveness for our sins,” says Archbishop Barrigah-Benissan.
“The third expression is, “Pastoral life:” “Since liturgical celebrations are held without the participation of the people of God, we asked priests to be more creative at a pastoral level and to offer reflections, homilies and exhortations to the faithful through social networks.”
Finally, there is the aspect of “Sharing.” “We must also take this opportunity to better experience solidarity in concrete ways. We will not be able to visit people, but we can be close to them by phone, social networks, and so on. A good part of our population lives in a precarious situation and will not be able to support containment measures. We will have to find ways to help them,” said the Archbishop.
On how the emergency is being managed in Togo, the Archbishop notes that it seems the government was caught off-guard.
“The government probably thought that Togo would not be affected quickly or that the phenomenon would not cause so much concern globally. However, in the face of the spread of the pandemic, various measures have been taken, especially in terms of prevention. The President of the Republic has also made announcements to ensure financial support for the population in need. However, we are very alarmed because health facilities are not sufficiently equipped. The people are not yet sufficiently aware of the seriousness of the situation. Furthermore, the precarious situation of most of the Togolese people makes it quite difficult to respect the guidelines. I must also point out that complaints have been made of some acts of violence by the security and defence forces during the curfew hours.”