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Church in Togo Faces Covid-19

Prevention, Prayer, and Sharing

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“Our pastoral behavior in this pandemic period can be summed up in four words: prevention, prayer, pastoral life, sharing”: this is what Mgr. Barrigah-Bènissan, Archbishop of Lomè says to Agenzia Fides, reporting how the Church in the small West African country is facing the Covid-19 emergency phase.

The Archbishop explains: “The first word is ‘prevention’. We have decided to observe the measures recommended by the government and have closed the churches for public celebrations. During Holy Week, Mass was celebrated in the cathedral without the participation of the people of God. The same goes for parishes. “The second word is “prayer”: “We also want to emphasize personal and family prayer. We must ask the Lord to have mercy on us. This pandemic goes beyond our ability; we pray and celebrate Mass to implore the Lord the healing of the sick and the liberation of this plague. It is also an opportunity to ask for forgiveness for our sins. “The third expression is ‘Pastoral life’: “Since the celebrations are held without the participation of the people of God, we asked priests to be more inventive at a pastoral level to offer reflections, homilies and exhortations to the faithful through social networks”. Finally, there is the aspect of “Sharing”: “We must also take this opportunity to better experience solidarity in a concrete way. We will not be able to visit people but to be close to them by phone, network, etc. A good part of our populations live in a precarious situation and will not be able to support containment measures and we will have to find ways to help them”.

On how the emergency is managed, the Archbishop notes: ”Our country seems to have been caught off guard by the pandemic. The government probably thought that Togo would not be reached quickly or that the phenomenon would not cause so much concern globally. However, in the face of the spread of the pandemic, various measures have been taken, especially in terms of prevention. The President of the Republic has also made announcements to ensure that financial support for the population in need. However, we are very alarmed because health facilities are not sufficiently equipped and populations are not yet sufficiently aware of the seriousness of the situation. Furthermore, the precarious situation of most of the Togolese people makes it quite difficult to respect the guidelines. I must also point out that complaints have been made of some acts of violence by the security and defense forces during the curfew hours”.

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