Catholic Bishops under the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) have suspended all church gatherings following new measures introduced by government to avoid the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

On Sunday, Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda announced new measures aimed at fighting COVID-19 and some of the measures include restriction of public gatherings of more than 10 people.

In a statement released on Sunday night, ECM through its Publicity Secretary Father Henry Saindi, Bishops expressed reservation with how government has come up with new measures without consulting religious leaders and other concerned parties in the country.

“Episcopal Conference of Malawi wishes to express its displeasure at the manner the new Guidelines have been issued. They have taken us by surprise. We were neither informed nor consulted despite the fact that we have been in the forefront lobbying for COVID-19 compliant behavior. In wider society the previous Guidelines were largely ignored but in churches we applied them diligently and we were teaching all Christians the importance of complying. We believe we still have a role to play in this regard.

“However, since we are law abiding, we the Catholic Bishops instruct all the Clergy, the Religious and the Laity to suspend forthwith all public Church gatherings until further notice. In the meantime, we shall engage the Government to see our true role inpreventing the further spread of COVID-19,” reads in part the statement.

He added: “We wish to reiterate that all earlier ECM Directives shall remain in force. Christians should pray in their homes every day. On Sundays, the Order of Prayers where there is No Mass should be used. Priests should celebrate Mass daily in their Parish Church or Community
chapel in order to pray for the intentions of the people. To compliment this, Catholic media houses should broadcast the Eucharistic celebration which Christians will follow at designated times of the day.

“We urge the Clergy, the Religious and the Laity to continue to strictly adhere to the Health and Pastoral Guidelines earlier issued by the Conference and Ministry of Health i.e. washing hands with soap regularly and thoroughly, avoiding physical greeting and contact, observing
social distance, using face masks etc.”

Meanwhile government has promised to engage religious leaders on the matter.

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