Abidjan (Agenzia Fides) - The Bishops of the Ivory Coast have adopted a series of measures to be applied during gatherings (Masses, Via Crucis, funeral vigils, pilgrimages, catechesis ...) in order to adapt to the provisions adopted by the government to combat the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Ivorian government adopted 13 measures on March 16; among these, the suspension for a period of 15 days starting from March 16, of the entry into the country of non-Ivorian travelers from countries with over 100 confirmed cases of Coronavirus disease, the closure of all pre-school, primary, junior and secondary education institutions for a period of 30 days, the ban on gatherings of over 50 people.
In response to these government measures, the Ivorian Bishops, in a statement read by His Exc. Mgr. Gaspard Bebi Gnéba, Bishop of Man, "invite all the people of God to respect them".
In particular, the pastoral and religious provisions stipulate that Catholic schools and seminaries will be closed for a period of 30 days from March 17 with the returning home of all seminarians.
The Bishops urge Catholics "to strictly comply with the provisions, prohibiting meetings of over 50 people and greetings with physical contact, as well as "respecting the distance of one meter between people". The Bishops also urge "regular handwashing and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue . "Liturgical greetings and peace gestures will be done by raising your hand towards your brother or sister".
With regards to Masses, the Bishops’ Conference of the Ivory Coast has announced that they will be held, provided that they are organized "responsibly respecting the norms adopted by the government. Community penitentiary celebrations are prohibited for 30 days from March 17th".
The sacrament of reconciliation will be done respecting the distance of at least one meter between the celebrant and the penitent. Weddings and Requiem Masses are authorized with a maximum of 50 participants, the same rule is applied for funeral vigils.
Catechesis, devotions and activities of movements and associations are suspended: they will be limited to family practice.
The Via Crucis can be celebrated in the family or in the CEB, basic ecclesial communities with a number not exceeding 50 people.
All these provisions "remain valid for Holy Week and Easter celebrations and will be renewed if necessary". (S.S.) (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 18/3/2020)