Grace and Peace of the Lord be with you.

A week ago, I addressed you through a special circular regarding some Pastoral adjustments that has to be made due to the increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria. In that letter, among many other matters raised, I instructed that Masses may be celebrated with not more than 40 persons in attendance. In a special message to the Priests, I gave instruction to multiply Masses in order to minister to as many faithful as possible.

However, on March 23, 2020, the Ogun State Government stated that gatherings of people more than 20 persons is prohibited as a preventive measure against the spread of the Corona Virus. Given this present situation caused by this pandemic and the possibility of further restrictions from the State, which is geared towards the protection of lives, we as a Local Church in Ijebu-Ode Diocese, cannot be unconcerned with the situation around us. We must support the government in making sure that we don’t spread the virus in the country.

In light of the above and in addition to the decree made on Saturday, March 21, 2020, I decree as follows:

  1. Suspension of public Masses with a congregation until further notice. Due to the difficulty of managing a gathering of 20 persons at every liturgical celebration, public Masses are hereby suspended till further notice. Priests are expected to celebrate Masses for the people but without a congregation. This is a painful decision to make but we have to support the Government in making sure the virus does not spread any further. Our churches will remain open for personal prayers and devotions during the day but not for gathering for a liturgical activity. The family remains a domestic Church and as such while the Churches are closed for liturgical celebrations, we must intensify our prayer life even as a family by regularly praying the Rosary, reading the word of God (the daily readings) and making Spiritual Communion. Kindly tune in to any of these TV Channels on DSTV for live broadcast of the Mass: Lumen Christi TV, Channel 350; EWTN, Channel 348. While following the Mass, Act of Spiritual Communion can be made at the appropriate time during the Mass. Copies of Act of Spiritual Communion in both Yoruba and English Language have been made available to all Parish Priests, pick up a copy in the Church.
  2. Liturgies of Holy Week Celebration: In line with the universal directives from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and authorized “by mandate of the Supreme Pontiff for the year 2020 only”, I hereby issue the following guidelines for the celebration of the liturgies for Holy Week in our local church.
    1. Palm Sunday: This is to be celebrated in the Cathedral and Parish Churches only. The rite of blessing of Palms in the Church should be used. The Priest(s) may invite one Mass server, lector and Church warden to join him in the celebration of the Mass.
    2. Chrism Mass is hereby postponed to a later date which shall be communicated to us, as soon as the ban on gatherings is lifted by the Government. Priests should continue to make use of blessed oil, blessed and consecrated at the last year’s Chrism Mass.
    3. Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper: This is to be celebrated in the Cathedral and Parish Churches only. The Priest(s) may invite one Mass Server, Lector and Church warden to join him in the celebration of the Mass. Washing of feet on this day is to be omitted. Procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose should be omitted and the Blessed Sacrament should remain in the tabernacle. There is no public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament but private adoration is encouraged.
    4. Good Friday: This is to be celebrated in the Cathedral and Parish churches without a congregation, with the inclusion of the universal prayers especially for the sick, the dead and those who feel lost and dismayed. The adoration of the Cross shall be limited to the celebrant only.
    5. Holy Saturday: Easter vigil is to be done only in the Cathedral and Parish churches. The Priest(s) may invite one Mass Server, Lector and Church Warden to join in the celebration of the Mass. The preparation and lighting of the fire is omitted and there is no procession with the Paschal Candle. The Paschal candle is lit and the Easter Proclamation (Exultet) follows immediately.

I will be celebrating the Holy Week Liturgies in the Cathedral together with the Administrator and his assistants. Ienjoin all Priests to make this a solemn time of prayers by celebrating the Mass daily for the intentions of their Parishioners who sincerely wish to be part of the Holy Week celebrations but cannot due to the pandemic.

Masses may be celebrated in Convents and Houses of Formation without high density gathering and should not be open to the public. All other Pastoral adjustments made in the last circular of March 21, 2020 still holds as it pertains to societal meetings and celebration of Sacraments, but the gathering must not exceed 20 persons including the Priest(s) celebrating.

Let us continue to intensify our prayers to God to save us from this pandemic. This is not a time to be weak in faith but to be stronger because together we shall overcome. While praying, kindly stay safe for yourself and your loved ones and the health workers, who are working relentlessly. Take every caution seriously and follow the directive of the Government and health workers.

May the Lord deliver us from every evil. Amen.

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