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Ebola Virus: Catholic Churches take steps to avert spread -Suspend shaking of hands



To avert the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Nigeria, some Catholic Churches have suspended some aspects of the liturgy.  These include hand to mouth communion and kiss of peace – handshake during Mass.

Onitsha Archdiocese:

For instance, officiating priests during holy Masses in all parishes in the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, will from today Sunday, not give Holy Communion directly with their hands into the mouths of the congregation.

In the Onitsha Archdiocese, the traditional rite of peace where worshippers shake hands or hug each other during Masses will also be skipped henceforth.

Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Dr. Valerian Maduka Okeke, announced this during an emergency meeting with all parish priests in the Archdiocese, last week as part of measures to control the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The priests had already announced this directive in all the Masses celebrated in their various parishes last Sunday while some among them demonstrated the practical aspect of the new communion method to the congregation to avoid creating confusion today (Sunday).

Shedding light on the new directive, the Director of Social Communication in the Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Pius Ukoh said that the Archbishop also told the parish priests to carry out sensitization programmes in their parishes to educate the congregation on how to avoid contracting the EVD and to maintain healthy lifestyles.

He said under the new arrangement, priests will now place Holy Communion into the palms of the receivers who will put it in their mouths while the rite of peace (shaking of hands) in the liturgy is now optional during Holy Masses.

Fr. Ukoh said Archbishop Okeke also urged intensive prayers by the church while the new directives may be reviewed if the need arises.

Lagos Archdiocese

In Lagos Archdiocese, Catholic priests have been also told to skip the traditional rite of peace during Mass.  The rite of peace also known as the sign of peace, involves shaking hands of fellow congregants.

In a statement released by the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos,  Most Rev. Dr. Adewale Martins, titled: The Outbreak of Ebola Virus, a pastoral approach, Archbishop Martins said the rite was optional.  “Taking into consideration the fact that this rite is optional, we shall henceforth omit it, i.e. Not to invite people to offer the sign of peace.

When you get to this rite, skip it.  Note also that the recent Circular from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments acknowledged this when it stated: “It is completely legitimate to affirm that it is not necessary to invite ‘mechanistically’ to exchange the sign of peace”, he said.

The Archbishop however told priests to maintain the traditional hand to mouth method of giving Holy Communion until a decision is reached on the issue next week when the bishops of the province meet.  He, however, advised them to be mindful and not to allow their hands touch the tongues of recipients.

Archbishop Martins said Holy Water bowls usually placed at the entrance of churches should be discontinued to contain the spread of the virus.  Priests were also advised to maintain extra caution when making sick calls at homes and hospitals and they should ensure that they wash their hands with anti-bacteria hand wash and sanitizer after performing the rite of Anointing of the Sick.  He also told priests to encourage those responsible for counting offerings to wear protective gloves.

Abuja Archdiocese

Similarly, the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja has called for prayers for what it termed “these trying times for our country”.

In a text message by the Metropolitan Catholic archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, to all the priests of the Archdiocese and read at Mass on Sunday, Onaiyekan said communion by hand was highly recommended.  In compliance with Onaiyekan’s directive, Daily Sun observed that the Sign of Peace was omitted during Mass at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Maitama, where itscorrespondent worshipped.

During the Mass, a medical doctor was given an opportunity to sensitize the faithful about the virus.  The doctor dispelled rumours associated with the cure for EVD by using hot water and salt to bathe.

Special prayers, according to the Cardinal’s directive, were also offered during the Mass.

A copy of Onaiyekan’s texts message made available to press reads: “Dear Fr., due to the prevailing national situation on the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), I am directing that the following pastoral guidelines should be observed throughout our Archdiocese from tomorrow till further notice.  The sign of peace should be omitted at Mass.

“Communion in the hand is rightly recommended and should be encouraged (unless for those who insist on receiving on the tongue).

“After post-communion prayer, say 10 Hail Mary for God’s intervention and Our Lady’s intercession during these trying times for our country.  May the Lord save us from Ebola”



USAID begins Covid-19 testing in Imo rural areas



USAID averts 25,000 unwanted pregnancies in Ebonyi, Kogi

…Umuagwo Varsity of Agric kicks-off October

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun Covid-19 testing in the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State, “in a bid to reduce the impact of community spread of the virus in the rural areas of the state.

The Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Declan Mbadiwe Emelumba disclosed this in Owerri while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the Weekly Executive Council meeting presided over by Governor Hope Uzodimma on Wednesday.

Chief Emelumba said so far, the USAID officials have carried out reasonable number of testing in Njaba LGA and reported that all those tested came out negative and that the council prayed that the result from other Local Government Areas will be the same.

He announced that the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) has approved the take off of the Imo State University for Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Umuagwo in October this year.

According to him, the approval underscores the efforts which the Imo State Government ably led by Governor Hope Uzodinma has made towards the establishment of a second university for the state.

Recently, the NUC panel was in Imo State to carry out the necessary verification exercises on the state facilities, human and physical infrastructures.

Mr. Declan Emelumba, who was flanked by the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Bernard Ikegwuoha, Commissioner for Health Dr. Damaris Osunkwo and the Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Governor Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku, informed that the Executive Council is happy that something new is happening in the Education Sector of the State.

Emelumba said that the Imo State University of Science and Environmental Sciences, Umuagwo will take off by October when other universities would be resuming for a new academic session.

In the same vein, the Council has approved the immediate relocation of Faculty of Engineering Imo State University Owerri to its permanent site at Okigwe, stressing that Government has put all processes and facilities on ground to ensure the immediate take–off of the faculty.

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Imo Governor’s aide visits Oziza FM Staff, Ogechi Iwu in hospital



Imo Governor’s aide visits Oziza FM  Staff, Ogechi Iwu in hospital

The Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser to Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku has visited Mr. Ogechi Iwu, a journalist with Osiza FM.

The media man is hospitalized at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri over complications from diabetes that led to his right leg being amputated.

Mr. Nwachuku said the visit was to show solidarity on behalf of Governor Uzodimma to his professional colleague, assuring him of their prayers, particularly that of his principal, and the prayers of Mr. Iwu’s numerous friends and well wishers who are touched by his plight.

“I am here on behalf of my principal to associate with him in this time of health challenge and to encourage him not to see the sickness as a death sentence.”

Oge Iwu at fmc

L-R: Chief Akaraonye, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku with Ogechi Iwu during the visit

Mr. Nwachuku urged Mr. Iwu to continue in the high spirit he saw him and trust God for his total recovery “because healing is a thing of mind and when a sick person is in high spirit the patient gets recovered quickly.”

The spokesman of the Governor promised to bring the plight of the journalist to the attention of his principal, and assured that the Governor will, in his usual manner of one with milk of human sympathy, show concern over Iwu’s plight.

Earlier, Mr. Iwu thanked the CPS/Media Adviser, the State Chairman of NUJ, Imo State, Chief Christopher Akaraonye and other journalists who were on the entourage, for coming to identify with him on his sick bed, and assured that God in his infinite mercy will quicken his recovery.

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Bishop Ugorji heads IMSU Governing Council



Bishop Ugorji heads IMSU Governing Council

Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma has inaugurated a new Governing Council, for the Imo State University, IMSU, Owerri.

At the inauguration ceremony on Monday, August 31, the governor named Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji as the Chairman of the Governing Council and Pro-Chancellor of the University.

Other members of the Council include: Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, Chief Tony Ezenna, Prof. (Ven.) Chinedu Nebo, Sir. Louis Ezeigwe, Chief Engr. Ernest Nwapa, Dr. (Mrs.) Uwandu Uzoma, Ugoeze Victoria Adaku Ekezie, Prof. Adaobi Obasi (Vice Chancellor) and others.

Speaking at the inauguration, Governor Uzodimma said the choice of the members is to infuse fresh air into the university because “It is in dire need to bounce back to reckoning.”
He added that the choice of the members was because they have carved a niche for themselves in their chosen fields of endeavour and that they have earned solid reputation as men and women of substance in their individual trade, indices that qualified them for the appointment.

He challenged the members to bring their reputation to bear on the University, bearing in mind the task for good quality scholarship in Imo State University as well as service to humanity.

The Governor urged the members to deploy their individual accomplishments, excellence, expertise, passion for service as effectively as necessary to actualize the dream of his administration of having a highly reputable University comparable to the best Universities in the World.

He also requested the Council to “restore in words and deeds the motto of Imo State University, which is Excellence in Service”.

“Imo State University currently is a classical example of a failed University,” Governor Uzodimma said but strongly believed that “with a star studded Governing Council such as the one inaugurated there is no doubt that Imo is on the track to realize the dreams of her founding fathers.”

He further enjoined the Council members to quickly hit the ground running and come up with policies and programmes that will reassure Imo people that the University that made them proud 20 years back is on track as he assured them of Government partnership in this regard.

In an acceptance speech, on behalf of the Council, the Chairman, Most Rev. Ugorji who is the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia thanked the Governor for the absolute confidence reposed in them by giving them the assignment and acknowledged that though the task is daunting he has a strong belief that with the calibre of members of the Council and support of the management, staff and students the University will be returned to a centre of excellence which was the dream of the founding fathers.

He said that Imo State University deserves the best and that he and his members as inaugurated will work acidulously to ensure that the target of the governor in making Imo State University one of the best universities in Africa is realised.

He congratulated fellow members and promised that God’s willing, they will not fail the government and people of Imo State.

Present at the inauguration were the Deputy Governor, Prof. Placid Njoku, the Speaker Imo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chiji Collins, the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Cosmas Iwu, and other members of the expanded State Executive Council.

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