Mpigi, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Kampala Catholic Archdiocese is seeking clarity on the COVID-19 prayer guidelines citing confusion and double standards applied by various law enforcement agencies.
The call comes barely hours after the arrest of Rev Fr Deogratius Kiibi Kateregga from St. Joseph parish in Mpigi town on Sunday for allegedly defying the guidelines. Fr Kiibi was arrested by Police Officers, working with District Internal Security Officer and UPDF soldiers.
The priest was reportedly found alongside five other people broadcasting mass through social media Platform-Facebook live-on Sunday morning.
According to Katonga Region Police Spokesperson Lydia Tushabe, the police was alerted that the priest was holding mass despite the fact that such public gathering were banned as part of the measures put in place by the state to avert the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He was found in Church with five other people. He had not informed any authorities about this activity. It is also said that he was giving out Holy Communion. He is currently being interrogated at Mpigi police station,” Tushabe told Uganda Radio Network.
However, Fr. Kiibi, who describes the act as unprofessional, says that he had not committed any crime and was observing the said COVID-19 worshipping and prayer guidelines.
“…we were recording the service for the faithfuls as guided. A number of soldiers, far many than the people I was with, all armed to the teeth came in accusing us of breaching the presidential directive,” Fr. Kiibi narrates. To him, the security operatives could have been misguided but questions why the police never verified the information before causing the commotion.
Rev. Fr Joseph Nkeera, the Kampala Archdiocesan Communication Secretary questions Fr. Kiibi’s arrest arguing that when the president banned public gatherings, he left out an option of priests ministering to the masses via electronic media including televisions, radio stations and online platforms.
“We don’t support defiant people. And we think all clergy and lay Christian should follow the guidelines as set by the government. But I think the government should clarify on this matter. How many people should be allowed during the said broadcast,” Rev. Nkeera said.
Rev. Nkeera thinks that the arrest of Father Kiibi could have been a confusion of directives or application of double standards. He stresses that on several media including national television, different religious leaders have been seen delivering services to the faithfuls and observing a minimum of at least five to ten people, without counting the television crew members.
He further argues that in a catholic parish, there is a ‘family’ of priests and other people who at times meet to pray as other people would do in their homes.
Recently the Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga issued a decree indicating that the faithful are dispensed from personally attending the Sunday obligation during this period when public gatherings are banned. He, however, observed that the Church would continue to reach out to the faithfuls via the available means of social communication.
Worldwide the mode of prayer is completely changing in the wake of COVID-19, with all denominations, now bending the rules, rituals and patterns of praying. However, there are defiant clergy who have adamantly refused to heed to the given guidelines.
World Health Organization has guided that closure of public places like schools and places of worship is a strong demonstration to take preventive and precautionary measures against Covid-19.