Easter: facing the coronavirus, the African faithful at the time of virtual gatherings
Across Africa, the echo of almost empty places: the Church asked the faithful to stay at home because of the epidemic of coronavirus (image of illustration) AFP / John Wessels
Text by: RFI Follow
The coronavirus pandemic has forced Christians around the world to innovate to celebrate Easter. Invent new ways to come together while respecting the rules of social distancing. In Africa too, innovations have multiplied to allow Christians to live this Easter weekend despite the pandemic. And the faithful sometimes resort to new gestures of piety, which use the codes of the 21st century.
With our correspondents in Douala, Kinshasa, Abidjan, Cotonou and Lomé
This is a Good Friday service that will be remembered. The churches resounded with the voices of the few people invited to gather. Here religious. There choristers. The echo of almost empty places everywhere: the Church asked the faithful to stay at home because of the epidemic of coronavirus. It was necessary to apply here too the social distancing which is imposed on all.
The whole Easter weekend will follow the same path. " The celebrations are maintained, but without the people ," explains Monsignor Samuel Kleda, Archbishop of Douala in Cameroon. We pray for the people. I celebrated as planned in the liturgy for Good Friday. "
In some African parishes, it will not be possible to go beyond “communion of prayers”. But in others, the epidemic must be forced to innovate, to set up new ways of celebrating Easter.
Faith-based media was used. Monsignor Fridolin Ambongo, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kinshasa, announces on his Twitter account: " I will celebrate the Pascal triduum in prayer union with you as well as Easter Sunday at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Congo live through the Catholic television Elikya, radio Elikya, radio Maria and in Youtube archikin tv ”. The presence of the faithful was reduced to a minimum on the benches of the Notre-Dame du Congo cathedral for the mass held this Saturday at 6 p.m.
One of the lay leaders of the parish explains that only about twenty people chosen from among the local leaders of the Church will be physically present. On social networks, a Catholic lets out her disappointment, but makes against bad fortune good heart: " When I think I would have been baptized this Sunday and the situation in which we find ourselves, it breaks my heart," she writes. . We will follow you in front of our screens. God keep us all. "
Dakar. A laptop. This Friday evening, a voice sings the Kyrie Eleison on an electronic tablecloth. The Way of the Cross streaming is about to start on Youtube. The diocesan office of information and communication (OFICOM), deployed its technical means to broadcast on social networks the celebration, broadcast from the Cathedral of African Remembrance. " It is still important to celebrate this celebration with pomp, despite the situation, " explains the communications officer of the Archdiocese of Dakar, Father Mbaye Remi.
These are then religious signs of the 21st century that are displayed. A “cat” has been set up to allow the faithful to interact during the Stations of the Cross. Some use the prayers sung in the cathedral on their keyboard. Meditation is also expressed with the emoticons of hands joined " All the people who have been swept away by the disease, a pious thought for them ", launches a connected faithful. The account of a university choir in Dakar takes up - in chorus - the last sentence of the song which concludes the Way of the Cross. Two musical notes allow us to imagine the voices rising from a distance in front of a screen.
In Senegal, Internet users were able to follow the Way of the Cross by streaming. Screenshot
Benign. Our Lady of Cotonou Cathedral. The Archbishop of Cotonou, Mgr Roger Houngbedji also celebrates Good Friday Mass without having a large number of faithful facing him. But here too, the passion office is streamed. Since the ban on celebrations in public, the Beninese clergy have created a website and informed their faithful by WhatsApp that they can follow the Masses of Holy Week and Easter there live. An interface on the site allows you to request online that a mass be said, which is also possible by SMS. Payment is then made by money transfer just like the offerings. Elsewhere, morning prayer exchanges have been set up via WhatsApp. Sunday at 10 am, the Easter mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Cotonou will be broadcast live.
In this context, surprising manifestations of faith sometimes occur. Father Augustin Obrou, the communications manager at the Archbishopric of Abidjan, says: “ Easter is the holiday par excellence for Catholic Christians, and we have decided to create web TVs in several parishes. The faithful follow Mass directly, from the links we have given them. There was a woman who told me that she reached out when I gave communion during the broadcast of the mass. There is something, a magnetism that is done. Especially when it's live. "
“ Christians are from society,” explains Mgr Nicodème Barrigah, the Archbishop of Lomé in Togo. They cannot oppose the preventive measures adopted by the government. To his priests, the archbishop recommends, on Easter day, to write the names of certain faithful on sheets of paper to stick on the benches of churches. A way to materialize their presence.
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