Dakar (Agenzia Fides) - "Despite our common thirst to find our way back to our churches, we, your Bishops, urge you to be patient in faith and in Hope", say the Bishops of Senegal in announcing the decision to keep churches closed even after the government eased COVID-19 restrictions.
"The present situation, from the opinions we have been able to gather, does not militate in favour of an immediate opening of our churches for worship", they explain in a statement signed by his Exc. Mgr. Benjamin Ndiaye, Archbishop of Dakar, in which the Bishops highlight they have gathered the opinion of doctors and health personnel of the community.
The statement continues by recalling that the "daily communication of the Ministry of Health and Social Action reports a persistence of new cases of COVID-19. It also points out two phenomena: on the one hand, the spread of the pandemic in areas and regions initially spared and, on the other hand, the steady rate of the curve around 9 percent to 10 percent of the subjects tested, a rate that could increase in the days or weeks to come".
On July 4, Senegal’s government announced it has decided to roll back some lockdown restrictions in the country after two nights of violent protests against the prolonged curfew and lockdown.
Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye said the start of the dusk to dawn curfew would be pushed back by two hours, to 11:00 pm and that restrictions on travel between Senegal’s regions would be lifted. Gatherings in public or private places, churches, restaurants, gyms, casinos will also benefit from these relaxation measures.
The West African nation has reported at least 8,135 cases of COVID-19 including 5,446 recoveries and 148 related deaths.
In their statement, the Bishops stressed the need to "assess the pandemic situation after the reopening of markets, the resumption of intercity transport, the reopening of classes and the lifting of the state of emergency", but also stress that "the increase in the number of cases follows the non-respect of preventive measures by the in the fight against COVID-19".
The Bishops also warn of the probability of a "second wave of contamination that could lead to another lockdown" adding that these trends show how "delicate the current situation is and how much caution and wisdom is required".
The Senegalese Bishops’ Conference envisage the reopening of places of worship and the resumption of pastoral activities around mid-August "if the situation improves" and for this reason it asks the parish communities to "carry out a pastoral reflection on health measures adapted to each locality".
"In the name of our faith, which invites us to pray in all circumstances, also in the name of our duty as citizens working in solidarity and the duty of Christian charity, we ask you to persevere in this fight by respecting the standards of health safety which are constantly reminded to us by the competent services. In so doing, we are preserving our lives and the lives of others", conclude the Bishops. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 14/7/2020)