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It’s already overdue to open churches —Cardinal Onaiyekan

Nigerian prelate of the Roman Catholic Church and former Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan has joined forces in the call for churches to be reopened.

Cardinal Onaiyekan was responding to an e-circular/opinion sampled by constitutional and human rights lawyer, Ms. Carol Ajie forwarded to him.

Ms. Ajie had sampled her opinion in reaction to a call by Bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide, David O. Oyedepo and others on reopening of Churches.

Alluding to the permission given to banks, markets and farms to open, Cardinal Onaiyekan hinted that it is already overdue to open churches.

He said: “If banks, markets and farms are opening, I believe government does not need to wait for us to go on protest like our Senior Pastor is doing before our right to worship is restored.”

According to him, “Mosques and churches deserve more special consideration than the above mentioned.”

While dispersing negative views on the ability of the churches and mosques to control their subjects in maintaining social distancing, he said:


“We should be discussing how to maintain precautions, not whether we should re-open.

“Italy, where hundreds are still dying every day, published on Thursday a protocol for resuming liturgical worship with the people.

“Let it be clear to all that we are no less concerned than anyone about the safety of our people.

“It is about time we bring God more forcefully into our war against CORONA[VIRUS], instead of continuing to rely on so-called “experts” who are hardly sure of what they are imposing on us.

“Our God will save us. Let the debate go on. John Cardinal Onaiyekan.”

See below the English translation of the Protocol by the Conference of Italian Bishops graciously sent by H.E John Cardinal Onaiyekan:

Ministry of Internal Affairs

Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration


His Most Reverend Eminence, Cardinale Gualtiero Bassetti
President of the Italian Episcopal Conference

Application of the measures of containment and management of the Covid – 19 pandemic emergency, provided by the Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration, 26th April 2020

Protocol regarding the gradual recommencement of liturgical celebrations with the people

In union with competent office, this document is undersigned today by the President of the Council of Ministries, the President of the Episcopal Conference of Italy and the Minister of Internal Affairs, with regard to the necessary security measures to comply with, concerning the normative and measures of containment of the Covid19 pandemic, for the recommencement of Liturgical Celebrations with the People.

Signed: The Head of Department

Michele di Bari

Protocol concerning the resumption of celebrations with the people

For the gradual recommencement of Liturgical Celebrations with the People, the objective of the present Protocol is to delineate the necessary security measures which to carefully comply with, in respect of the health normatives and the containment and management of the pandemic.

  1. Access to the places of worship in the occasion of liturgical celebrations
  2. The individual access to the places of worship must be carried in such a way: to avoid gathering, be it in the building, or annexed places, for example, the sacristy and the churchyard.
  3. In respect of the norm on social distancing between persons, the legal representative of the institution or entity, must ascertain the maximum holding capacity of the edifice of worship, taking into consideration the minimum distance for security, which must be equal to at least one meter, lateral and frontal.

III. The access to the church, in this transitional phase, shall be quota-fixed and regulated by volunteers and/or collaborators who (wearing the appropriate apparatus for individual protection, disposable gloves and a general sign of recognition) aid in accessing and exiting the edifice and they must be mindful of the maximum number of worshippers permitted. In cases where the attendance is likely to significantly exceed the permitted maximum number of worshipers, the hypothesis of increasing the number of Liturgical Celebrations should be considered.

  1. In order to facilitate an orderly access, during which the required distance for security must be respected, which is at least 1.5 meters, multiple points of entrance should be utilized, distinguishing the doors reserved for entrance from the doors reserved for exit. During the entrance and exit of the faithful, the doors shall remain open in order to facilitate a safe flux and avoid the scenario where the handles of the doors may be touched.
  2. Those who go to the places of worship for Liturgical Celebrations are obliged to wear masks.
  3. The Faithful are also reminded that one is not allowed to access the place of worship in a case of flu-like/respiratory symptoms or in the presence of bodily temperature equal to or beyond 37.5°C.

VII. The faithful are also reminded that those who have been in contact with persons tested positive to SARS-CoV-2 in the previous days, are not allowed to access the place of worship.

VIII. The physically challenged should be aided in gaining access, envisaging and establishing designated places so that they can participate in the liturgical celebrations while maintaining the existing norms.

  1. At the entrances to the places of worship, sanitizing liquids should be rendered available.

Sanitation of places and objects

  1. The places of worship, including the sacristy should be regularly sanitized at the end of every celebration, by means of cleaning surfaces with the detergents having antiseptic effects. Care must also be taken to facilitate the change of air.
  2. At the end of every Liturgical Celebration, the sacred vessels and other utilized objects like the microphone should be carefully disinfected.

III. The Holy Water fonts in the church shall remain empty.

Manners to be observed during the liturgical celebrations

  1. In order to respect the norms of safe distance, it is necessary to reduce to the minimum the presence of concelebrating ministers, who are however, bound to respect the expected distance even in the presbytery.
  2. The presence of an organist may be welcome, but for now, let the choir be omitted.

III. Amongst the preparatory rites for the Holy Communion, the sign of Peace is still to be omitted.

  1. The distribution of the Holy Eucharist shall take place after the celebrant and the eventual extraordinary ministers must take care of the hygiene of their hands and put on disposable gloves, (and putting on facemasks and having the maximum care to cover the nose and mouth, maintaining an appropriate distance of security) they should be careful in offering the Sacred Host, without coming in contact with the hands of the faithful.
  2. The faithful must ensure the respect of a healthy distance.
  3. For hygienic sanitary reasons, it is not suitable to have hymn books and similar manuals in the places assigned to the faithful for worship.

VII. The offerings shall not be gathered during the celebration but by means of affixed containers, which may be located at the entrances, or in other places retained as fitting.

VIII. The maximum respect for the indicated dispositions relative to the social distancing and the use of appropriate gear for personal protection should also be applied to other celebrations different from or inserted in the Holy Mass, like Baptism, Holy Matrimony, the Anointing of the Sick and Exequies.

  1. The Sacrament of Penance should be administered in places with ample space and ventilation, in order to facilitate the strict adherence to distancing and discreetness required in the Sacrament. Priests and Penitents must always wear their masks.
  2. The celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation is postponed.
  3. Further information
  4. It shall be the care of the Ordinary to make known the content of this Protocol through the modalities that best ensure its diffusion.
  5. At the entrance of every church, a notice of the essential indications of this Protocol shall be affixed. The following indications must not be omitted:
  6. The permitted maximum number of participants in relation to the capacity of the edifice.

In the anointings at the Sacrament of Baptism and the Anointing of the sick, in addition to the mask, the minister should wear disposable gloves.

IX. The prohibition of entry to those who manifest the symptoms of flulike/respiratory maladies, body temperature equal or superior to 37.5° C or those who have been in contact with persons positive to SARS-CoV-2 in the previous days.

iii. The obligation to always maintain the stipulated distance for security while entering the church; the observance of the rules of hygiene of the hands; the proper use of gears for personal protection, especially the use of masks which cover the nose and mouth.

Other suggestions

  1. Where the place of worship is not suitable for the respect of the indications present in this Protocol, the Local Ordinary may evaluate the possibility of open-air celebrations, ensuring the dignity and decorum of the celebration and the respect of the sanitary norms.
  2. Bear in mind the dispensation from the days and feasts of precept for the aged and infirm.
  3. Live transmissions and web streaming of the Celebrations are encouraged for fruition by those who cannot participate at the Eucharistic Celebration.

The Technical-Scientific Committee, seated on the 6th of May 2020, has examined and approved the present “Protocol for the Recommencement Celebrations with the People”, prepared by the Episcopal Conference of Italy.

The present Protocol will come into vigor on the 18th of May 2020.

Signed by

Gualtiero Cardinal Bassetti (President of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy)

Professor Advocate, Giuseppe Conte (President of the Council)

Counselor Prefect, Luciana Lamorgese (Minister of Internal Affairs)

Rome, 7th May 2020

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