The Catholic Church has taken an unprecedented step by accepting to alter some of the centuries-old rituals during mass to aid government’s efforts against ebola.
In a meeting for faith-based groups with Local Government Minister Prof Anastase Shyaka and Health’s Dr Diane Gashumba, the Catholic Church’s delegation said it would temporarily make changes to how mass is conducted at churches in regions bordering DR Congo.
Liturgy of the Eucharist, where people at mass are served hand-to-tongue/hand by priests can be stopped, said Msgr Nsengumuremyi Jean Marie Vianey, archbishop of Nyundo Diocese, in the meeting in Rubavu district.
The other ritual the Catholic Church will urge its followers to stop is the ‘Rite of Peace’, where people attending mass greet each other.
In Rwanda, strangers hug at the same time as knocking heads and end with handshake – which are all sure ways in which the ebola virus can spread.
The practice of greeting is also done in other religious groups, and government is keen to sensitise people of the dangers.
Msgr Nsengumuremyi said: “For example instead of people shaking hands or hugging which creates direct contact, people can simply bow at each other.”
The epidemic is ravaging eastern DR Congo, with more than 1800 killed so far. Goma city where cases have been confirmed is right next to Rwanda’s border.
Strict measures have been put in place on the border, as well as screening and mandatory hand-washing for anyone entering from Congo.
Inside Rwanda, thousands of medical staff have been trained, and drills are held daily at various hospitals.
Rwanda has also asked its nationals to consider not going to Goma.