Cosmas Omegoh, Toks David, Lagos
The Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos has announced the suspension of Mass with the faithful in attendance at the Archdiocese in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In a special circular addressed to all priests and religious workers in the Archdiocese by the Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Adewale Martins, on Saturday, March 21st, “Mass with the faithful in attendance is to be suspended for the next four weeks.”
Some faithful who turned up for Sunday Mass this morning were turned back, although it was earlier announced that only gatherings not exceeding 50 worshipers will be acceptable.
The decision comes amid a spate of measures being taken by authorities and institutions both domestically and internationally to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease, which has killed over 13,000 victims worldwide, with Nigeria confirming 26 cases of the virus as of Sunday, March 22nd.
Nigeria has no reported deaths from the disease.
The Archbishop of Lagos in his letter to priests said that “we are fighting a war, a war with an invisible deadly enemy with weapons that are very dangerous to human life.”
States across the country are suspending public gatherings and closing schools, in addition to instituting stay at home orders, with the Federal Government banning inbound international flights from the worst-hit countries, part of broader lockdown quarantine measures being adopted worldwide to slow the spread of the disease.
On March 7th, Pope Francis had announced that he “would not be appearing from the window of his study to recite his Sunday Angelus with pilgrims in St Peter’s Square”, Rome, according to Vatican News.
Soon after, churches across Italy followed suit, cancelling all public Masses as a precaution against the spread of the virus, which is easily transmitted through human contact.
Churches across the world, including Nigeria, are heeding the warning of health authorities and in some cases government directives to suspend all large scale public gatherings.
Archbishop Martin’s letter to priests reads in part:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, with a heavy heart I have to address another circular within two days to you regarding the COVID-19 and the situation in Lagos State.
“Yesterday, we had been able to ascertain that the restriction of people to gather together for worship was for not more than fifty. We have heard today that the number has been reviewed downwards to not more than twenty by government. This has made our arrangement to see how we could manage to still get Mass for as many as possible now literally impracticable.
“With deep regrets, we are constrained to direct that Mass with the faithful in attendance is to be suspended for the next four weeks. Mass is not suspended as priests will continue to offer Mass for the people and the whole world, what has been suspended is Mass with the faithful in attendance.
“We urge the faithful to view this situation in the light of the fact that we are fighting a war, a war with an invisible deadly enemy with weapons that are very dangerous to human life. We know that God is able to deal with it for us just as he fought for the People of Israel. That is why we had thought we could still gather as a Community of Faith within the ambit of the government directives, to pray to God pleading the Blood of Christ as we celebrate Mass.
“Meanwhile we urge you to spend the Sunday as a holy day. You may make an altar with a crucifix and possibly candlelight if you do not have one already, read the Readings for the day, share the word of God with one another, pray the Rosary and the “Prayer for an End to the Coronavirus Pandemic”. Do take time to tune to Lumen Christi Television Network on DSTV Channel 350 and EWTN, DSTV Channel 348 so that you may follow the Mass and them make an Act of Spiritual Communion ….”