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Fr Martin Sirju

SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

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Although churches reopened for Mass with the Public Health Guidelines strictly enforced to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the turnout of parishioners was reportedly low.

Guardian Media visited the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception and the Tabernacle of Prayer, both in Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

At the Cathedral, Father Martin Sirju said while the church can safely accommodate about 75 parishioners— half of its regular congregation— and still keep within social distancing guidelines, the turnout has been only about one-third of the congregation.

“I think some people have not gotten the HSE guidelines from the church yet, but we have been having about 50 persons so far, last night and this morning that would constitute about 30 to 40 per cent of our congregation,” Sirju said.

He said the one-hour masses are also being live-streamed for worshippers who choose to stay at home. Live streaming of services was started when public health guidelines prohibited churches and other places of worship from opening at all.

He said those in attendance were very cooperative with the measures put in place to adhere to the guidelines.

Sirju said for the month of June, evening mass has been cancelled but the other scheduled services remain the same.

“We will close the church shortly for it to be sanitised and then we will open back around 4 pm for the 6 pm mass, all the weekend masses are on, as usual, all the weekday morning masses are on for the time being,” he said.

At the Tabernacle of Prayer, Bishop Jankee Raghunanan said he feels as though his congregation also torn about mass.

Raghunanan said the church can safely accommodate 100 people while in strict observance of social distancing guidelines. The turnout yesterday was 50.

“First and foremost, we ensured that the laws as given by the Ministry of Health, that we obeyed those laws, the mass itself, wasn’t as normal in that, I think some people whether they should come or whether they shouldn’t come,” Raghunanan said.

He said the church was paying some of its members to completely sanitise the building after the service.

Raghunanan shared some of his message from mass, saying, “We in the Evangelical Pentecostal church, we believe that Jesus Christ is coming back again, we believe that with this pandemic taking place, my message to the church this morning is to be ready because everything is happening suddenly.”

He said he is urging other religious leaders to obey the stipulations put in place by the Government to keep their congregations safe.