Melba Afonso – São Tomé and Príncipe & English Africa Service – Vatican City
The doors of Catholic Churches in the Diocese of São Tomé and Príncipe have re-opened to the faithful but on strict guidelines both from the government and Church leadership.
The resumption of Church Services was made after a communiqué from the Government lifted a ban on public gatherings and celebrations.
Liturgical guidelines to prevent COVID-19
Announcing liturgical guidelines aimed at preventing COVID-19 contagion, the Bishop of the Diocese of São Tomé e Príncipe, Manuel António Mendes dos Santos, drew up a list of activities that parishes could carry out during the first phase of the easing-up. The Bishop also limited the number of persons who can participate at a Eucharistic celebration. He has encouraged parishes to celebrate outdoor Masses, wherever possible.
Father Ezequiel Patese, the parish of Nossa Senhora de Fátima, spoke of the deep spiritual suffering of parishioners who felt deprived of Sacraments during the last three months of confinement. “People cannot live without God,” he said. It was a great relief that the Eucharist can once more be celebrated for the people.
Lockdown impact on the economy has been severe
As of Wednesday, São Tomé e Príncipe had 707 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 208 recovered and 12 deaths. The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed for São Tomé and Príncipe on 6 April 2020. As the cases increased, the Government decreed a general nationwide lockdown. The state also put in place travel restrictions and quarantine measures.
For the island nation with a population of 219 054, lockdown measures have been particularly harsh given that tourism accounts for more than 20% of employment. The effect on the economy has been severe.
São Tomé and Príncipe is an island country in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa.
Portuguese influence from its colonial past is still strong.
(Source: Radio Jubilar)