OXFORD, England (CNS) — The Catholic Church in Congo said emergency measures will remain indefinitely in place in parishes at risk of Ebola, and urged effective action against the disease by the government of President Joseph Kabila.
“Although Masses are continuing, sacraments such as baptism and confirmation have had to be suspended,” said Msgr. Jean-Marie Bomengola, secretary of the church’s Social Communications Commission.
“Since we can’t foresee how the disease will develop, we can’t set out any timescale. But the crisis needs real containment measures, and we’re counting on the government to provide them,” he said.
Health care workers toiled to head off a feared epidemic in the Equateur province in northwest Congo, where at least 25 people have died of the almost-always fatal disease.
Msgr. Bomengola told Catholic News Service June 7 that at least 1,000 people had been vaccinated and that measures were in place to prevent “any personal contact” among Catholics.
“All precautions are being taken to ensure people don’t come too close. It’s a highly abnormal situation,” he said.
“The church provides a key framework for communication and cooperation, and is at the very center of events, mobilizing preventive initiatives and providing transport and medical care,” he added.
UNICEF said June 5 that nearly 300,000 people had been screened since the Ebola outbreak was confirmed May 8 by the World Health Organization.
Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, co-adjutor archbishop of Kinshasa who previously served in the Diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, where the outbreak occurred, decided to suspend administering sacraments to protect churchgoers from contracting the disease.
He said the ban would extend to anointing the sick, exchanging the sign of peace and other acts involving physical contact, adding that a June 3 ordination Mass also had been canceled.
The archbishop added that clergy would dispense Communion to hands rather than mouths and would ensure sacred objects were disinfected before and after every Mass.
The Ebola outbreak coincides with political tension in Congo over preparations for long-postponed December elections as well as violence by armed groups in several provinces.
Msgr. Bomengola told CNS Ebola had “made everything more difficult for the population,” adding that there were fears the disease could spread down the Congo River from the trading hub of Mbandaka to Kinshasa, a city of 10 million.
“We’re trying to instill a calm hope for better things, to maintain the faith and prevent despair,” he said.
“But we also rely on the government to take every effective step to end insecurity and stop this disease. Despite all the anger and hostility around us, normal life has to continue.”
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103