By Ovie Okpare
The Catholic Diocese of Warri in Delta State has lifted the ban placed on masses across the diocese following the outbreak of the dreaded novel coronavirus.
It said masses will be held on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays under strict adherence to the directives of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and those of the Delta State Government.
According to a circular issued by the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Warri, Most Rev. Dr. John Oke’Oghene Afareha, directed that only one must should be held and must not exceed two hours.
He enjoined priests in the diocese to ensure that the guidelines of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) were strictly obeyed by worshippers.
NIGER DELTA TODAY Online reports that in line with the directive of the bishop, masses commenced across the diocese today’s Sunday May 24, 2020.
This medium had earlier reported suspension of masses across the diocese despite the relaxation of religious gatherings by the state government.
A copy of the circular obtained by our correspondent on Saturday, the Bishop ordered for immediate suspension of Sign of Peace which involves handshake during Eucharistic Celebrations (masses).
It also directed that worshippers must also wear facemasks to church as one of the measures to contain the spread of the disease.
It further stated that parishes must provide running water and soap at the church entrance, adding that every worshipper must be compelled to wash their hands before being allowed into the church auditorium for mass.
The circular read in parts, “The ban on masses without congregation is hereby lifted for those days that the government has granted permission for church to congregate for worship (i.e. Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.) Only one mass is to be held and its duration not more than two hours.
“At the Eucharistic Celebration, the Sign of Peace which involves handshake remains suspended.
“The practice of Holy Communion administered on the palm and consumed on the spot is to be maintained until further notice.
“Weddings and funeral masses can now be celebrated in compliance with government regulations on those days (Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays) permitted for worship.
“While there is no specification as to the number of people to congregate for worship on the days designated, the size of the parish church should determine the number of congregation allowed, adhering strictly to the physical social distancing.
“All parish priests are to make provision for adequate flowing water and soap and sufficient points for hand washing and to insist on their usage.
“They are also to insist on the use of facemasks as directed by the Government and encouraged individuals to have their personal hand sanitizers and use them when necessary. “
Bishop Afareha called on priests and catholic faithful to continue to pray for Nigeria and the world to ensure that God intervene in the eradication of the disease while urging faithful to support efforts of government at all level to ensure that virus is defeated.