Quito (Agenzia Fides) - The Episcopal Conference of Ecuador (CEE) met with the technical-scientific Commission to detail its plans for the reopening of churches, following agreements between bishops and government representatives (see Fide, 28/4/2020). The CEE is preparing a biosecurity protocol for the gradual reopening of Catholic churches in the country. "Participation in the Sunday Eucharist constitutes one of the most important moments of expression of the Catholic faith - is what is written in the Bishops’ document sent to Fides -. Due to the health emergency we are experiencing, the faithful have been dispensed from this precept. This is why we invite the faithful to continue participating in the Eucharistic celebrations through virtual channels".
The reopening of the churches will take place in phases: the Ecuadorian government created a "traffic light" system to measure the risk of contagion and spread of the Covid-19 virus. The colour red indicates areas with the highest risk; orange, areas under consideration for change; and green, areas with the least danger of infection. The two phases, scheduled to be implemented in May and June, do not provide for the celebration of Masses, processions, or any grand acts of expression of faith. Likewise, the protocol does not permit people older than sixty years, children younger than twelve, or people with preexisting health conditions to participate in the protocol measures at this time.
The first phase concerns churches, parishes and regions indicated as red and yellow. The protocol indicates that from the end of May, these churches will be open only for personal prayer and access will be limited to a maximum of twenty minutes at a time. The faithful can also come for the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the church or other sufficiently large places. People are encouraged to maintain a distance of one and a half metres from each other. The second phase applies to churches indicated as yellow or green. This will be implemented in June, one person per family will be allowed to enter the churches, under the usual conditions. Individual communion will be possible by following the security protocols for both the priest and the faithful.
Bishops call the faithful "to safeguard health as a fundamental good". This progressive reopening "will help us to meet spiritually in our churches, observing the security that this emergency requires".
Finally, the Bishops appeal to everyone's responsibility, to ensure that churches are safe places: "Let us remember that respect for the integrity and life of all is our first duty, as human beings and as Christians". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 8/5/2020)