Article by: Fr. Godfred Ofori
ST. NICHOLAS PARISH- KENYASI
15th March, 2020, during Mass, I told my church members, let us pray the virus does not prevent us from meeting as it is happening in some countries. My comment was prophetic and it came to pass when the President of the nation addressed us that evening that all gatherings including religious activities were to close. Our bishops cooperated with the directives from the President and we closed all Churches for three good months. It was quiet a longer time but who else could trade human life on the table of worship. Life is indeed precious and as a Church, we always respect and preserve life, so there was no mass gathering.
Covid-19 may be part of us for long but we have to allow certain things to move on like worship, primaries, conferences and so forth. The President addressed the nation and gave religious bodies the go ahead to meet but with certain precautions. The bishops met and they gave us some guidelines based on what the President and the Minister said. My parish for instance bought four (4) infrared thermometer, four (4) Veronica buckets, tissues, hand sanitizers and the like. We had to even invite the fumigation/disinfection team from the Kwabre Municipal Assembly to fumigate and disinfect all the Churches in the parish at a fee. We were told that task force will be coming round to check how we obeyed or are obeying the protocols. That was why the disinfection or fumigation had to be done by a recognized body like that of the Municipality and even there should be an issue of certificate which we obeyed, because we had no option than to go by them. Meanwhile, I am yet to get my certificate for the Church at Kenyasi after over a month of the work done.
Again, we were asked to disinfect the place after every one hour of Church service and I had to comply because I respect the status quo. To the lay man, THE VIRUS COULD BE AT THE CHURCH OR ON THE PEWS FOR THE THREE MONTHS WE CLOSED THE CHURCH and that called for the fumigation. Again, the virus can still be left on the pews or in the Church when we meet as 100 people to worship for 1 hour. As laymen we accepted the protocols as they fell in.
Just this morning as I came out from my presbytery, lo and behold a man from the “Local Electoral Commission” was posting something on the doors of our Church premises (without our permission). Guess what? He was posting the publication for the impending registration exercise. I allowed him to post them but I asked him the days they will spend on the registration and he said at least 12 days. I am a new pastor here so I do not know what has been going on in the past. When I inquired, I was told that they always do the registration in front of my parish Church. Hence, during this pandemic which we cannot enter our Church nor its premises beyond an hour for worship, they will carry out registration exercise at the same premises for more than five hours a day in about twelve days.
The Catholic Church has a social responsibility to the state that is why we have been given our facilities and premises across the country to be used as isolation centers in this pandemic.
From my interrogation, they are not ready to disinfect the premises after every exercise. They did not make any provision for that and according to the man, they will wear mask, apply sanitizers, use veronica bucket and the rest so that is fine. I do not think they will check temperatures and tell “supposed infected persons” to go back without registering; but that is their own problem.
BUT my worry is “if a virus can stay in a closed church for three months so we needed the municipal assembly to fumigate or disinfect, if the virus can be on the pews so we need disinfection after every 1 hour Mass, what prevents the EC who wants to use OUR OWN FACILITY for its exercise to disinfect after every exercise? Are the EC workers free from the virus or are the electorates free from the virus? What if the virus stays and a church member contracts it after the exercise. Won’t they blame it on the opening of Churches? Won’t they collapse my Church for having just one covid-19 patient? These are the questions I put before the man and still contemplating but I am yet to get answers.
I cannot be an anti-citizen for I will always support what the nations does but with this, I am tempted to close our facilities because of the spread. If religious members’ lives matter, then citizens’ lives matter too. If I am to protect the life of my members at every Mass which I do, I must do that from external “possible carriers of the virus.”
This is what I am experiencing at Kwabre Kenyasi in the Ashanti Region or better still St. Nicholas Parish- Kenyasi under Konongo Mampong Diocese. I write this as an individual entity who wants to create this awareness. I am solely responsible for this write-up and I pray I get things done for the Church and her members at Kenyasi. If you experience same, you can join me as I humbly ask the EC to disinfect our facilities after every exercise or better still, NO DISINFECTION, NO FACILITY. I am entitled to this opinion as an individual. I will always be a “citizen and not a spectator” but this time I am a citizen who happens to be a pastor of souls. GOD BLESS US ALL
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