KAMPALA – Catholic Bishops of Uganda have said the Christians do not have to attend Sunday mass in the wake of guidelines released by government to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Under their umbrella body, the Uganda Episcopal Conference, the bishops urged the clergy to use the available digital or online platforms to continue preaching the word of God.
“We dispense the faithful from the Sunday obligation to participate in the Holy Mass during this period; however, we encourage all Catholic radio stations to relay and broadcast Holy Mass on Sundays and week days. The faithful are advised to tune in at given times which are to be announced by the same radio stations. The faithful are also strongly encouraged to pray at their homes,” the bishops said in a statement signed by Bishop Anthony Zziwa, the chairman of Uganda Episcopal Conference and Bishop of Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese.
The bishops also announced that in case a gathering of not more 10 people attend Mass, Holy Communion should be given in the hands of the faithful and ministers should thoroughly wash hands with sanitizers before and after distribution of Holy Communion.
Since public gatherings are banned, Bishop Zziwa urged clergy, religious, catechists, and laity to refrain from conducting the Stations of the Cross, crusades, workshops and retreats of more than 10 people.
“Furthermore, they are instructed to limit funeral rites to close relatives, administration of the sacrament of Matrimony, for those who cannot wait, to no more than 10 people, with celebrations postponed to a later date (after expiry of the 32 – day moratorium). Such gatherings encourage close contact which may facilitate infections from one person to another,” he said.
Bishops also urged the clergy to make the directives from the President and the guidelines from Ministry of Health widely available to the faithful. This can be done during homilies, distributing printed copies of the Guidelines, and using local Catholic radios and any other media.
Where possible, churches have been urged to provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers or hand washing facilities with soap at the entrance of the Church for all in-coming members of the church to wash before entering the church and at exit.
“The recommended sanitizer should have above 60% alcohol, although higher concentration of up to 80% is preferred. Ensure that all Holy Water fonts at the entrance of some churches remain empty,” the statement adds.
The bishops said all Church buildings should have windows open during celebrations to allow adequate light and aeration and the ministers must suspend all handshakes and hugs during Holy Mass and other liturgical celebrations until the pandemic is over.
The bishops said care and prudence be observed in administering Sacraments and Sacramentals.
“All persons, clergy and laity, who may have symptoms of flu and cough should avoid going to public gatherings, including the Holy Mass, and have themselves checked promptly. We encourage the faithful to quickly enable such persons to reach the nearest health facility as quickly and safely as possible. Such persons should, however, not be discriminated against or stigmatized but treated with dignity and love of Christ (Mt 25:36ff),” the statement reads in part.
During this Lenten Season, the bishops said, “let us intensify our prayers, fasting, and works of charity asking God to grant us his mercy and love. In addition to the prayer of Pope Francis, we invite the Faithful to recite at least one of the Rosary every day praying for the end of the Pandemic.”