As Christians celebrate Easter holidays worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has shaped a new way to congregate in the Catholic churches in Burundi.
The director of communication of the Archdiocese of Bujumbura Father Dieudonne Niyibizi said that they have adopted modalities to fight the spread of the virus.
“The Catholic Church implemented decisions made by the country’s Health Ministry especially washing hands and social distancing,” he said.
Mass will be conducted as normal countrywide throughout Easter, but a number of practices have been suspended.
“On Thursday there will be no washing of feet as a precaution to avoid the spread of the virus. Another change on Friday is we will not kiss the cross. When it is one cross, and several people kiss it, it can easily spread the virus,” Father Niyibizi said.
All the entrances to churches in Burundi have water points so that people can wash their hands when entering and leaving.
Burundi is yet to suspend public gatherings as has been done in neighbouring countries. At the popular Burundi Regina Mundi Cathedral, the priest said communion wafers are now placed on congregants’ palms instead of in their mouths.
“Priests avoid direct contact with people. Now the congregants stretch out their hands to maintain social distance,” said one of the priests.
The government has stepped up measures to contain the virus including the suspension of flights to and from Melchior Ndadaye International Airport, and screening and quarantining of passengers coming from Covid-19 infected countries.
“The Catholic Church cannot stop congregating if the government hasn’t suspended schools and public transport. But if the government says we suspend all public gatherings, the church will also consider the congregation,” said Father Niyibizi.