The Bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama, has said that empty pews in churches were sacrifice and contribution of the church to the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Kaigama stated this while giving a homily titled: Facing Empty Pews, during the 2020 Chrism Mass, Thursday, at the Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Catherdal, Area 3, Garki, Abuja.
He said, “Our Chrism Mass is celebrated with such limited number of participants to avoid a huge congregation. This is part of our sacrifice and contribution to the aggressive war by the Nigerian government against the deadly coronavirus which like the roaring lion is threatening to eat us all up. God forbid!”
According to him, “Usually, we, the priests on this day of Chrism Mass all gather in the presence of a large congregation. Today, the people are not present here. Their absence today in not deliberate neither is it a sign of rebellion or ingratitude to God.
“You too my brother priests in your parishes and rectories cannot come to join us as we do every year on this day dedicated to the renewal of our priestly promises.
“Here, we have only deans, who are representing you in the different deaneries and who will bring back to you oil of the sick, oil of catechumens, and the oil of Chrism which we shall bless at this mass.”
Speaking further he said, “The order to stay at home on account of coronavirus, a kind of ‘forced monastic enclosure,’ offers us the opportunity to do some searching. We hope that by the time our people return and our pews are filled up once again, we priests shall be even better and more fully equipped and the people will find us like the Israelites found Moses when he returned from prayers on Mount Sinai.
“Yes, we are forced to stay at home, maintain physical distance and to avoid public liturgical celebrations on account of the coronavirus, but we have not been told to avoid communion with God. This is actually a providential period for intensified communion with God.
“We, therefore, ask God for more graces so that our character and general life will always show the mark of our priestly consecration.
“Our attitudes, manners, temperaments, and relationship with people must show that we are in a special loving relationship with God and that we truly belong to God.”