(Vatican Radio) In the face of the Ebola epidemic, the Catholic Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Ibadan in Nigeria have collectively made some pastoral recommendations with regard to liturgical practices and the administration of sacraments.
In a wide-ranging communique dealing with a number of pastoral issues, co-signed by Archbishop Gabriel ‘Leke Abegunrin and Bishop Felix Ajakaye, on behalf of other Bishops, the Bishops note that the Ebola epidemic is a source of worry to all people all over the world. They commend the government of Nigeria and other persons and agencies who are trying to bring the Ebola Virus Disease under control.
The Bishops say they wish to join their voices to the call for vigilance and caution on the part of all Nigerians given the Ebola epidemic. In this regard,they have decided on a number of measures to be put in place till the Ebola alert comes to an end.
The Bishops urge priests, the religious and other pastoral workers to collaborate with doctors and other medical personnel in sensitising and educating people on the dangers, symptoms and management of the Ebola disease. As much as possible, this should be done in the local languages to ensure better communication and the minimising of superstition and rumours.
In addition, the Bishops have decided that the common self-signing with water at the entrance of the Church and at other occasions be suspended. This, however, does not preclude the use of Holy Water for other purposes.
The shaking of hands during the Sign of Peace at Mass has also been suspended, given the risk such contact entails at public celebrations.
The Bishops further urge priests to exercise great care at sick calls and hospital visitations and on other occasions particularly those that necessitate physical contact in the administration of Sacraments. When priests dispense Sacraments to the sick, they should ensure regular washing of the hands after such occasions.
The pastoral recommendations also encourage that hygienic precautions be taken by priests and altar servers and other pastoral assistants. Those who count the offerings in the Church should wash hands regularly and use gloves and hand sanitisers.
Given the expediency of the situation, communion in the hand should now be the practice with due and adequate catechesis of the people. The Bishop of each diocese, in the ecclesiastical province will judge the right timing for this and give other directives and approve other measures considered useful at the local level.
The Bishops have directed that all parishes publicise the new measures in their bulletins and communications channels.
The Ecclesiastical Province of Ibadan, in Nigeria, comprises Ibadan Archdiocese, Ondo, Ekiti, Ilorin, Oyo and Osogbo Dioceses.