Bishop Phalana: How We’ll Open for Mass on July 5
Bishop Victor Phalana of Klerksdorp has put a week-byweek plan in place for parishes to prepare and make sure the necessary protocols have been followed to allow for reopening on July 5.
The opening of churches has serious implications and this is something the bishop said he does not take lightly.
He is concerned that the number of new infections in the diocese and province is rising despite North-West doing better than other provinces. “I know that many people in our diocese cannot wait any longer.
They would like to worship and to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. It is not easy at all,” Bishop Phalana said. “We have to make a reasonable effort to ensure the safety of all. Safety first and compliance with health regulations—there is no need to rush,” he said.
The bishop warned against panic that “causes a ‘tunnel vision’, which is terrible for decision-making”.
Addressing his priests and the faithful, he said: “I have a duty to encourage you not to succumb to the cultural climate of fear, anxiety and self-preservation.” Nonetheless, parishioners must be taught to obsessively maintain a scrupulous hygienic routine to avoid infecting others.
Bishop Phalana rejected the notion that there should be no services until South Africa reaches Level 1. “No service until 2021? I do not agree with this. The people of God need the service of the Church during the pandemic more than at any other time,” he said.
“We agreed with government to shut our churches as a way of mitigating the spread of the virus.
For 60 days we cooperated and we contributed in this effort. I suspect that if we did not do that, we could be facing thousands of deaths,” the bishop noted.
“Through lockdown Levels 5 and 4, we contributed to the slowing of the spread of the virus in our communities,” he said.
Bishop Phalana outlined the various things that need to take place each week in preparation for the reopening on July 5.
In the first week of June, priests and pastoral councils are to study the statement from the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the regulations for churches from the South African Council of Churches, and the bishop’s previous pastoral letter.
They should then start their own reflection with lay leaders in their parishes.
They are encouraged to invite doctors, nurses and health experts to be part of their reflection and allow them to give advice.
Bishop Phalana will also meet with the diocesan Covid-19 relief team to study the regulations and come up with strategies for implementation.
He will look at the safety materials at the diocese’s disposal and see how much it has received in donations to help parishes reopen. In the second week, the bishop will call for a meeting of the clergy of the deanery, for spiritual reflection and to discuss the way forward for the diocese and their parishes.
He suggested that the respective deans meet with the Deanery Pastoral Council Executive, if necessary via Skype or WhatsApp.
In the third week, Bishop Phalana will have a Zoom meeting with deans to get some feedback and to discuss further.
There will also be a Zoom meeting with consultors to look at the implications of reopening churches and the systems needed to put in place.
The bishop will also attempt a Zoom or Skype meeting with the executive of the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Sodalities’ Forum.
In the fourth week a pastoral letter to guide parishes for reopening churches in July will be issued.
The diocesan Covid-19 relief team will also deliver masks for priests/deacon.
A thermometer for screening will be delivered to each priest/deacon, and each parish will be provided with a 5-litre sanitiser for a start, and possibly rubber gloves.
Bishop Phalana encouraged priests to fumigate their churches, at least once.
Government or the health department might help with fumigation, but if they don’t, priests are advised to find a company that can fumigate and to let them send through a quotation.
From June 29 to July 4 deepcleaning of churches will take place, and parishes are encouraged to mobilise people to volunteer to assist with cleaning.
General cleaning of church outside areas and other buildings, as well as doing repairs and maintenance, and ensuring that they have running-water toilets that work properly are also recommended by the bishop.
Those who are going to supervise the screening of members, who are going to be responsible for the registers and those who will supervise handwashing and the use of sanitisers must also be trained.