As countries around the world put in place measures to control the spread of COVID-19 including an appeal, sometimes enforced, for citizens to “stay at home,” a Catholic Prelate in the West African nation of Togo has taken a positive view of the situation, saying it offers the people of God an opportunity to reflect on their respective lives, seek conversion and draw closer to God.
“The coronavirus is an opportunity to reflect on the way we live. It is also an opportunity for us to convert, to return to God and to be reconciled with others,” the Archbishop of Lomé, Nicodéme Anani Barrigah said Tuesday, March, 24 in a video message.
“Let us not miss this opportunity, the Lord speaks to us through these events,” the 56-year-old Archbishop added.
In a bid to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Togo, which has recorded 23 cases and one death, the government prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people for a period of one month.
In line with the government’s directives, the Bishops of Togo suspended the celebration of Sunday masses starting March 22 and directed that Eucharistic celebrations during the week have at most 50 people.
The Prelates also suspended the celebration of first Holy Communion and Confirmation and urged that weddings be postponed or celebrated with not more than 50 people.
For the Chrism Mass, the Bishops said a live broadcast will be made in every diocese on Catholic radio stations. A delegation of 40 priests will be expected to concelebrate this Mass with the Local Ordinary.
Speaking to the reality of the presence of the disease in the West African country, the Togolese Prelate said, “it has arrived in our country and we must take it very seriously.”
“We have to do those little things that can save us,” he said and added, “We must stick to these protective measures.”
The Prelate cautioned against panic in the face of the deadly virus, instead advocating for actions that manifest a sense of “responsibility.”
“That responsibility begins with observing the preventive measures that are advocated, including washing our hands with soap and water; wear the protective mask and avoid physical gestures and physical contact. Avoid coughing in the air or into a handkerchief. But when you feel a cough coming on, you can cough in your elbow, as they say,” he added.
Further, Archbishop Barrigah also warned against using faith as a scapegoat against these measures saying, “Please let us not say that because of faith, we are going to defy and/or because of faith, since we believe more than we pray, we are not going to observe the measures of prevention, of precaution.”
“The Lord helps us, of course, but let us also take our share of the responsibility,” the Prelate added.
He said the suspension of public Mass “does not mean that we should no longer pray, quite the contrary.”
“For reasons of precaution, we can forbid celebrations with assemblies,” Archbishop Barrigah said adding that, “we can close the doors of the churches, but no one takes our hearts.”
“Who can forbid us to pray! Faith is important!” he noted and continued, “we must beg the Lord to help us and give us the courage not to panic. To enlighten also those who are looking for the most appropriate remedies.”
“May the Lord help us because we need his help,” the Togolese Archbishop concluded.