Controversy trails Sunday worship in Enugu churches

From Maurice Okafor,Enugu

Many churches in Enugu state metropolis yesterday opened their doors for congregational worship, the first of its kind since the ban on social gathering in the country which affected religious worships by Christians and Muslims alike, educational institutions, etc consequent upon COVID-19 pandemic.

THE AUTHORITY checks revealed that the congregational church services were conducted based on yet to be confirmed reports that the Enugu state government has lifted ban on religious worships in the state, after a closed door meeting with Governor Ugwuanyi, held on Wednesday, May 6,at Government House, Enugu.

The Catholic Bishop of Enugu, Most Rev Callistus Onaga told newsmen after the meeting that the church leaders made promise to continue with all safety rules to contain COVID-19 pandemic and will let church members follow suit. However Bishop Onaga said other details would be unfolded to the Church members.

But thereafter, reports on social media platforms credited to the Chairman of the Christian Council of Nigeria, CCN, Enugu State chapter, Archbishop Barr. Christopher Ede, asserted that worships can be conducted in various Christian churches on Sunday May 10,(yesterday), with government directives that all worships must end at 12 noon while maintaining all safety measures.

The social media reports further stressed that as part of the measures to comply with the safety measures, the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) directed that Churches can conduct several numbers of services with limited number of worshippers at a time, but all the services must end at 12 noon.

THE AUTHORITY checks in Enugu observed that many priests of different denominations in the state metropolis communicated their members to come for worship arranged for 6.30 am,7.30am,8.30 am,9.30am etc.

However, a subsequent report posted on social media by a media aide to Archbishop Barr. Chris Edeh, Chairman, CCN, Enugu state chapter, Rev Kene Ugwu, alleged that Archbishop Edeh was quoted out of context. He said that Archbishop Edeh never announced or issued a release on lifting of ban on religious worship in Enugu state.

Rev Kene Ugwu in his statement posted on social media captioned ‘Stop Quoting Church Leaders out of Context’ stated that Archbishop Edeh only sent a memo to CCN member churches to continue to abide by the rules and regulations of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on social distancing protocol and other precautionary measures, “as they seek room for intercession to God to help the nation in the war against the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) beginning from Sunday, May10, 2020.”

He said that it was not the duty of Archbishop Edeh to announce the lifting of ban on religious activities in Enugu state .
“As leader of the CCN in the state my duty is to continue to encourage the faithful to guard themselves against whatever will heighten the spread of the virus,” he said.

As at the time of filing this report, the Enugu state government is yet to issue a statement on whether it directed for the re-opening of Sunday worships in the state or not, even as the assertion made headlines in some national dailies on Thursday, May 7,based on close door meeting between Governor Ugwuanyi and some church leaders in the state.

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