Kurdistan Region churches to reopen as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Friday evening, the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil announced the reopening of churches in the Kurdistan Region starting on Sunday with a commitment to social distancing after more than two months of closure due to the coronavirus.
The Archdiocese of Erbil said in a statement on social media that the bishops of Erbil met on Wednesday, May 13, 2020 in the local Chaldean diocese "to discuss the matter of reopening churches starting next Sunday, May 17, 2020, based on recent decisions issued by the Kurdistan Region’s Council of Ministers."
The bishops said that a condition of this decision was that churchgoers "demonstrate their commitment to social distancing while attending services and to ensure the use of disinfectants before entering places of worship."
The religious officials added that the tradition of kissing the priest’s hand while bowing in front of them as part of the mass would be suspended for the time being. The statement concluded by again urging that all congregations "follow instructions issued by each church regarding sacred communion."
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), on March 3, 2020, suspended all religious ceremonies, rituals, and other activities in mosques, churches, and temples across the region as part of the measures it took to confront the outbreak of the coronavirus. The restriction was lifted on Monday.
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The Bishops also extended their thanks and appreciation to local medical and security teams for their active role in easing this crisis, adding that on Saturday, the new rules "for holding the rest of the sacraments will be announced."
The KRG Ministry of Health announced on Friday evening, that no new cases of COVID-19 had been registered in the region during the previous 24 hours.
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Hundreds of people gathered for Friday prayer in the Great Mosque of Sulaimani after the decision to reopen it following two months of being shuttered.
The coronavirus has infected over 4.5 million people worldwide and killed more than 307,000, according to government-reported data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The actual figures could be dramatically higher due to insufficient testing capabilities or underreporting.
Editing by John J. Catherine