COVID-19: How we will celebrate Palm Sunday ― Catholic bishop
His Grace, Most Reverend Ignatius Kaigama, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, will be celebrating a private Palm Sunday Mass (without a congregation) to be held at the Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Garki Area 3. The mass will begin at 8am on Sunday.
The Palm Sunday celebration can be viewed on Catholic Television of Nigeria (CTV), AIT, Channels TV, and Plus TV Africa.
In obedience to the directives of Most Reverend Dr Ignatius Kaigama, the parish priest of St. Luke’s Catholic Church, Kubwa, Reverend Father Innocent Jooji has further explained how the current lockdown directive of the Federal Government would affect this year’s Palm Sunday celebration.
Reverend Father Jooji while speaking with Tribune Online at the church premises in Kubwa, Abuja, said there would be a blessing of the palm on Sunday, April 5, so that it could be used for next year’s Ash Wednesday.
The Palm Sunday is a yearly Christian celebration symbolises the triumphant entrance of Jesus Christ. During the celebration, faithful use palm which would be blessed by the presiding priest. The faithful are expected to keep the palm in their houses till the next year where the palm would be burnt on Ash Wednesday.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered a lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun State as part of the efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.
Speaking further, Reverend Father Jooji said the priests in the parishes would perform the symbolic blessing of the palm in the church on behalf of the parishioners, after which the palm would be kept ahead of next year’s Ash Wednesday.
His words: “You need to be alive to serve God, the Bible said ‘the dead cannot praise you O Lord.’ So, government globally are taking precautions, giving directives on how we can stay safe, and the Nigerian government had keyed into it in consultation with religious leaders in all faith.
“So, churches, mosque and other places of worship are shut down as well as markets, except essential services that are available.
“In the Catholic Church, we are law-abiding. And the life of every human being means a lot not just to fellow human beings but to God because we are all precious in the sight of God.
“So, in compliance with the directive of government and considering the deadly nature of coronavirus, we are following the directives.
“So, on Sunday, many people are curiously asking what to do. For now, we are abiding by the instruction of shutting down the church and places of worship.
“On Sunday, what we intend to do is to try and get palm, because we have to bless palm for us to burn on next year Ash Wednesday, so we will bless them as many as possible and leave them around the church premises, and we keep them against next year.”
Speaking further on the impact of COVID-19 on the church, the clergy said priests were directed to celebrate private masses which they have been doing.
“Priests are directed to celebrate private masses, and that is what we have been doing, and we asked that parishioners link up with us in prayers because Jesus said when two or three are gathered in my name, I am there. And Jesus said time will come when you will not worship me in the temple of Jerusalem, you will worship me anywhere.
“So, now people are worshipping God and praying to God more in their homes, within their families and individually. Spiritually, we are connected and linked with the Holy week’s ceremonies that will commence this Sunday.
“So, until we get a contrary instruction, we will still abide by that, you know it is the first time for centuries that this has happened and the people of God are very much bothered, some feeling spiritually empty, but we encourage them.
“In our helplessness, we know God is in control, God is still on the throne, God is a deliverer and we are praying and hoping that in no distant future that this pandemic will be over and we will worship again together as a community and pray together and receive the blood and body of Christ together,” he said.
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