Ebola: Onaiyekan cautions Catholics on handshake

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The Catholic Church on Sunday, called on its members to refrain from shaking hands during the sign of peace session in the church as a means of preventing the spread of Ebola Virus Disease.

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, gave the directive in an interview with journalists on Sunday.

He explained that the church was taking necessary precautionary steps to avoid the spread of the disease.

Onaiyekan however clarified that the warning does not mean that the church had banned shaking of hands during mass. He said, “We did not ban handshaking during mass. We are only discouraging it and it is going to be temporary until it is clear that Nigeria is no longer under Ebola threat. “It’s a possible means to avoid the spread of Ebola virus and also prayers to keep the country safe. Many people are not comfortable with shaking people they don’t know during this period of Ebola, so there is need to take such steps.” In the same vein, the Parish Priest of Holy Cross Catholic Church, Gwarinpa, Abuja, Rev. Fr Chris Bologo, had also instructed worshippers to avoid shaking of hands. He said the rites of the sign of peace would be avoided subsequently until there were clear indications that Ebola spread has been tamed. Bologo assured the congregation that the steps put in place were geared towards ensuring that worshippers were free from having contact with persons who might have the virus. However, the General Overseer of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, Bishop Mike Okonkwo has urged Nigerians to go about their businesses and not to be afraid of Ebola virus. Okonkwo spoke at the TREM headquarters, Abuja as the Guest Speaker of a seminar tagged ‘Leading Edge Conference’. He said, “Today, most people read newspapers and watch television. They tell you to bath with salt, and you go and bath with salt. The devil is making mess of the church today.” Okonkwo kicked against the fear being created, saying that “people should not be afraid of Ebola, don’t be afraid of Ebola.” Okonkwo stated that though Ebola and other diseases may be Nigeria’s valley – low point, instead of creating fear, people should rather confront the virus.

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