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Churches grapple with coronavirus

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“We are, however, awaiting instructions from the Archbishop as we are obliged to take necessary precautions”

AS SEVERAL churches around the country have called off their Easter services, the much-anticipated Roman Catholic Church’s Palm Sunday service, scheduled to have been held at Galeshewe’s Open Air Arena on the Sunday before Easter, has been cancelled.

This was confirmed by the Kimberley Diocese yesterday.

The decision came in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing a ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people.

The president’s call has been adhered to by one of the biggest churches in the country, the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), which announced the suspension of its Easter gathering in Moria, until further notice.

Father Victor Tlhole, Dean of the Kimberley Diocese, said they are still awaiting an announcement by the Kimberley administrator, Archbishop Jabulani Nxumalo, regarding the celebration of various Easter services in Kimberley.

The decision to cancel Palm Sunday’s service at the Open Air Arena was based on the expectation that more than 500 Catholic congregants were likely to attend the service.

According to Tlhole, local priests took the decision to cancel this service following various engagements with all role-players which, he pointed out, were still continuing.

Tlhole stated that at this stage only the Palm Sunday service at the arena had been cancelled and negotiations were still under way regarding other services.

He stated that these services would likely be changed to smaller hourly sessions throughout the week, which would be strictly monitored.

“At this stage, however, we are still engaging especially after the services in Johannesburg and Tzaneen were called off. Different churches will hold smaller sessions, which will be communicated to the congregants by their various leaders, so that the prescribed limit of 100 people is not exceeded.

“We are, however, awaiting instructions from the Archbishop as we are obliged to take necessary precautions,” elaborated Tlhole.

The Catholic Church in Johannesburg announced this week that it had cancelled all its Easter services in response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of the coronavirus as a national disaster and the banning of gatherings of more than 100 people.

The Archdiocese of Johannesburg, the biggest archdiocese in the country, says it will be impossible to control the number of faithful to less than 100 during the Easter weekend.

The spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Johannesburg, Father Mduduzi Ndlovu, said they are encouraging the faithful to pray in smaller communities.

The St Cyprian’s Anglican Cathedral in Kimberley meanwhile indicated yesterday it was awaiting communique from the Archbishop in Cape Town regarding Easter services.

In a notice from Most Reverend Dr Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Anglican parishes were advised that services should be limited to 100 people. He also advised that hand sanitisers should be made available for congregants arriving at and departing from services.

Meanwhile, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa has sent a memorandum to its congregants in Kimberley that Sunday church services will be held at 7am and 10am only.

The church has cancelled its planned Easter conference that was supposed to be held in Jan Kempdorp.

Congregants were urged to attend the 7am service, which is usually quiet with fewer congregants.

The memorandum further stated that only one door will be used instead of two doors as usual, where church stewards will be monitoring the church flow. The church hall will be prepared for standby in the event that there is an overflow.