Ebola: Mixed reactions greet suspension of ‘sign of peace’ in Catholic worship

ebola alertMixed reactions have greeted a directive issued by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan on some aspects of worship in reaction to the outbreak of the Ebola disease.

The directive stated that worshippers would henceforth receive the Holy Communion bread in their palms as against the usual practice of sticking out their tongues to receive the bread.

It also suspended the shaking of hands, a practice usually observed regularly during church service.

The new directives were said to be precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

Reacting to the directives, some worshippers said the order had instilled more fear into member of the denomination, while others viewed it as a precautionary measure to prevent possible contamination.

Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria on the issue, Rev. Fr, Moses Jimbili, said it was a way of orientating the people on measures, to avoid the spread of the Ebola virus.

“Since God has given us the knowledge, we ought to make good use of it; it shouldn’t instil any fear in people.

“A handshake isn’t an exclusive way of showing love; seating next to each other in church is another way; that doesn’t make our faith any less.”

Moses noted that people generally were afraid of change as they had tied their faith to some beliefs, stressing that the church was only creating awareness.

In his reaction, John Siwar, a worshipper, said that religion and science did not go together because religion had to do with faith while science believed in proofs.

“I think that the charity in church shouldn’t be compromised because of the outbreak of a disease; the reason why we shake hands in church is to preach and demonstrate love.

“The most important thing for me is that people should maintain a good relationship with God and one another,” he said.

Also commenting on the issue, Rev. Sister Afoma Chukwu, advised worshippers not to see any adjustment as a decrease in their faith, adding: “faith without good work is dead.”

“Let us not confuse our religion with science because Ebola disease is real; everybody should accept this and work to curtail it in the society,” she said.

A teacher, Santus Odey, said the church was just trying to create awareness, saying that it was not a ban but that “the church has made it optional.”

The cautious approach to aspects of Catholic worship is not restricted to Abuja.

Chioma Annette, a Facebook user who was at St Agnes’ Catholic Church in Maryland, Lagos on Sunday exclaimed, “Goodness me! The Priest just skipped the ‘LET US OFFER EACH OTHER THE SIGN OF PEACE’ part in this 8:30am mass.”