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COVID-19 Hampers Clerics Ministering to the Sick, Dying :: Uganda Radionetwork
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COVID-19 Hampers Clerics Ministering to the Sick, Dying

The compassionate ministry is done through prayer, pastoral visits to the sick, the celebration of the sacraments, the commendation of the dead, and consoling those who are grieving. But the COVID-19 pandemic is making it difficult for the clerics to minister to these groups of people.

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Ministering to the ill and the dying is a major role of spiritual leaders in all faiths as the sick and those on death beds often want to interact with God or make things right.

 

The compassionate ministry is done through prayer, pastoral visits to the sick, the celebration of the sacraments, the commendation of the dead, and consoling those who are grieving. But the COVID19 pandemic is making it difficult for the clerics to minister to these groups of people.

 

The Provincial Secretary of the Church of Uganda Rev Canon Captain William Ongeng shares that such spiritual work is key to the sick and dying but it can expose the ministers to coronavirus since most of the rites performed involve physical contact.  

Rev Canon Captain Ongeng says due to the risk involved, the clergy members painfully, can no longer help to facilitate this important aspect of ministry.To reduce or completely remove the risk, Ongeng notes that ministers have been advised to end the pastoral visits to hospitals and people’s homes.  

“We have told the clergy not to risk their lives during these pandemic times," says Ongeng. "Although we cannot visit the sick, we should continue to pray for them since they need our prayers more than anything else.” 

 

Moses Muwulya, acting West Buganda diocesan communication officer who is also one of the ministers attached to St Luke Chapel in Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, says that the sick mostly prefer invocations from the clergy and praying without getting near or touching them is not satisfactory, which make this evangelization mission so difficult in current situations. 

“We pray with the sick, and this at times gives them hope even when they are in pain or dying," says Muwulya. "This is a moment when God can touch ones’ soul and that is why evangelizing to the sick is very important.”

    

Muwulya adds that even the few who had insisted on carrying on their work of late have been scared off due to the increased COVID-19 infections and deaths in their respective communities. 

   

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In the Catholic church, the situation is the same. Monsignor Gerald Kalumba, one of the delegates helping in the administration of the vacant see of the Kampala Archdiocese, says priests cannot continue to behave normally knowingly in these abnormal situations.  

Although the Catholic church has a full sacrament for the sick -Anointing of the Sick, administering it in times of Covid-19 has also been complicated. 

 

Monsignor Kalumba says where possible, the priests have been advised to stand at a recommended distance and avoid touching the sick but in a situation where this is also risky, the priest can just conduct prayers from wherever he is.

    

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Presiding Apostle Dr. Joseph Sserwadda of the Victory Church in Ndeeba is also concerned about how the pandemic is taking a toll on the compassionate ministry.

 

Dr Sserwadda who is also the co-chairperson of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda says that ministers should at all times look for means to continue caring for this group of people. He says although pastors cannot get near or lay hands on some sick people at this time, it can be done by use of the new media, telephones, and other possible ways.    

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However, he also warns that although the ministers cannot physically reach out to those suffering from COVID-19, many people with other illnesses should not be neglected as well in the name of the pandemic.   

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