Archbishop Sebastian Shaw addresses a news conference about a mask campaign to tackle Covid-19 in Lahore on April 1. (Photo supplied)
Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore has given the green light for churches in the eastern archdiocese to reopen later this month.
The announcement was made in a pastoral letter and a video message aired on Aug. 1 on Catholic TV Pakistan.
“Thank God we followed precautions suggested by the World Health Organization and our government is playing a very important role in stopping the spread of the virus. It proves that we can fight it,” Archbishop Shaw said.
“All churches will be reopened for public Masses on Sunday, August 16. Remember to bring your sanitizers, wear masks and maintain social distance when coming to the church following standard operating procedures (SOPs). The duration of worship will be short. The number of Masses will be increased as per need.”
On Aug. 15, the diocese will celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary as thanksgiving, he added.
Churches were shut down on March 15 even before Prime Minister Imran Khan declared a national lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic that has infected almost 280,000 in Pakistan with nearly 6,000 deaths.
On March 19, provincial and federation governments allowed churches to reopen only on Sundays. The announcement was made following a meeting of Catholic and Protestant bishops and the minister of interfaith harmony.
However, Archbishop Shaw opted for daily online prayers and dedicated the conference hall of the bishop’s house for the studio-cum-chapel in April. More than 2,000 viewers from Pakistan and abroad watch them every day live on the Facebook page of Catholic TV Pakistan.
Churches in the Archdiocese of Karachi in Sindh province have been conducting public Masses since last month.
“The daily Mass is only 30 minutes while Sunday Mass is 45 minutes. Church committees have been tasked to ensure the strict observance of SOPs,” Father Mario Rodrigues, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, told UCA News.
Most Catholic churches in the northern Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi were also opened last month, although online Masses continue at St. Joseph's Catholic Cathedral in Rawalpindi.