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How Covid-19 will change ways of worship in Catholic churches

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By FRANCIS MUREITHI

The Catholic Church in Kenya will break away from the traditional way of worship, thanks to Covid-19 pandemic.

This is the first time that the church with more than 12 million members is changing its ways of worship without much consultations from the Vatican.

The church has an elaborate procedure of celebrating Eucharist established under the Canon Law, or the law of the Catholic Church which is religiously followed worldwide.

However, over 2,000 priests in more than 26 dioceses in about 1,500 parishes across the country will now change the way they preach and conduct other ceremonies such as sacrament, baptism, funerals, weddings and confessions.

EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

The new mode of worship will also affect over 2,000 educational institutions, several pastoral centres, shrines, retreat centres, hospitals and children’s homes among other institutions owned by the church.

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 The guidelines come at a time when the government appointed Inter-Faith Council led by Nyeri Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria is burning the midnight oil to compile guidelines to be followed ahead of reopening of places of worship.

The 16-member council is expected to come up with protocols for celebrations of weddings, funerals and other religious ceremonies in the places of worship.

The religious groups are also expected to ensure strict Covid-19 containment measures like physical and social distancing guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health are observed.

At least more than 7,188 Kenyans have so far contracted the disease while 154 others have succumbed to the virus.

According to the guidelines issued by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, dubbed “Liturgical Guidelines on the Re-opening of Public worship” the way church services are conducted will never be the same again. 

RESPONSIBLE WORSHIPING

The church has proposed a raft of measures to ensure safe and responsible worshiping in tandem with the Ministry of Health strict guidelines ahead of the reopening of places of worship.

During the sacrament of baptism, the priest should wear a mask throughout the celebration of the sacrament and strictly observe 1.5 meter-distance.

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“A limited period of proximity during the anointing, the pouring of water, and explanatory rites is permissible and necessary,” said the eight-page report signed by the chairman of Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Reverend Philip Anyolo.

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Catholic faithful worshipping at Christ The King Cathedral in Nakuru town on March 22, 2020. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The anointing associated with the sacrament of confirmation may not take place via the use of cotton ball or other instrument.

“The anointing must be performed by the celebrant directly with his hand,” said the guidelines.

The sacrament of anointing the sick during this pandemic period will be restricted to those who are dying and those about to undergo serious surgery and will be conducted only by trained hospital chaplains who wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

SOCIAL DISTANCING

The guidelines reveal how the sacrament of confession should follow safe social distancing practices and be carried in a well-ventilated area, outdoors, or in the main church.

“Both the priest and the penitent should wear masks and impermeable barrier should be placed between the priest and the penitent,” states the guidelines.

The holy water fonts placed at the entrance of the church should remain emptied while blessed water is to be properly disposed of in a scacrarium or directly into the ground.

On liturgical requirements, all missalettes, hymnals, prayer cards and other paper resources must be removed from pews. At the same time, mass will be celebrated for one hour and where there are more masses, there will be an interval of 30 minutes to ensure sanitising.

For rural set up, the guidelines encourages faithful to celebrate Sunday masses in the small Christian communities.

NUMBER OF USHERS

Other measures include reducing the number of ushers, choir members, altar servers, processional dances. The use of microphones should be restricted to one priest or if used by more than one it should be sanitised.

The priests are encouraged to use own chalice while drinking the symbolic blood of Christ.

The popular sign of peace by hand greeting will be replaced to avoid physical contact. The kissing of the altar and the gospel by the celebrant priests will be replaced by deep or profound bow.

“By giving these guidelines, we are confident that we can assure our Christians of their safety when attending the church services. We shall continue working with the government and the Ministry of Health officials to realise the goal of bringing back the church activities to the catholic community responsibly and expeditiously,” said the guidelines.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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