The Catholic Church in Rivers State on Friday asked its members to stay safe and observe Easter Sunday at home.
This was contained in a letter addressed to all priests signed by Camillus Etokudoh, the Bishop of Port-Harcourt Diocese.
Governor Nyesom Wike had relaxed the lockdown order in the state on Thursday.
A statement by his spokesman, Simeon Nwakaudu, explained that the ease was to enable Christians to observe their religious obligations during Easter.
Wike’s directive also permits the Muslim community to observe their Jumat prayers within the period.
But in his memo entitled “Pastoral update following Governor’s broadcast”, Bishop Etokudoh thanked Governor Wike for his consideration.
He, however, noted that in view of the threat COVID-19 poses, it was better to be careful and continue to observe social distancing, the established measure of preventing the pandemic.
The cleric’s letter read: “With prayerful meditation on the Holy Week, I sincerely thank you our priests and lay faithful for adhering so far to our Diocesan directives/guidelines for the celebration of the Holy Week.
“We deeply appreciate the State-wide broadcast of the Governor of Rivers State, yesterday, on Holy Thursday, April 9, 2020 during which he temporarily relaxed the restrictions on large religious gatherings for Moslems on Friday April 10, 2020, for their prayers and for Christians on Sunday April 12, 2020 to have their full congregation for Easter celebrations.
“However, in the face of the threats of COVID-19 and having prayerfully considered the implications of the Risks to our expected crowded congregation on normal Easter Sunday celebrations, we hereby request you our priests and lay faithful to continue to keep to the CBCN and our Diocesan Pastoral directives/guidelines for the celebrations of Holy Week including Easter Sunday till further notice.”
Bishop Etokudoh prayed to the Lord to hear the cries of Nigerians, give everyone Easter blessings and heal the world of COVID-19.
Also on Friday, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) condemned governors’ resolutions to relax the lockdown in their states despite coronavirus scare.
The ‘Stay at home’ order effected to curtail the spread of coronavirus in the country has been lessened in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Katsina, Kogi, Niger, Ogun, Ondo and Rivers States.
A statement by NMA President, Dr. Francis Faduyile and Secretary, Olumuyiwa Odusote, warned that directives authorizing the mass observance of Jumat prayers and Easter Sunday services could have serious consequences.
The body of doctors noted that undermining a guideline against mass gatherings can only heighten the curve of transmission dynamics.
The NMA appealed to the governors to reverse their pronouncements in the interest of Nigerians’ safety.
Meanwhile, Nigerians are awaiting President Muhammadu Buhari’s next action as the 14-day lockdown slammed on Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States expires Monday April 13.