The Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in Nigeria have suspended the exchange of peace and the common cup during Eucharist services in order to halt the spread of the Ebola virus.
Approximately 1800 cases of the deadly virus have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria since doctors identified the first case, a two year old girl in Guinea. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reports 961 deaths as of 8 August 2014.
The disease jumped to Nigeria last week after an American citizen infected with the virus flew to Lagos from Liberia. Nigerian health officials report ten of the seventy people with whom he came into contact have been infected – and he and his nurse subsequently died. On 8 Aug 2014 President Goodluck Jonathan declared a public health state of emergency, while Guinea closed its borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia to halt the spread of the disease.
In a statement released on 10 August 2014, the Church of Nigeria press office said Archbishop Nicholas Okoh had suspended “the shaking of hands during exchange of the peace and also the age – long mouth method of administering communion.”
“Primate Okoh while delivering a sermon at the Cathedral Church of The Advent Life Camp Abuja said communicants would from yesterday dip bread in the wine and into their mouths. This is aimed at preventing the spread of the disease, if it exists, through physical contact.”
“The Primate said other stringent measures would be announced in September after the meeting of the Church in council in Enugu,” the statement said.
Nigeria Catholic churches in Lagos have suspended the ‘sign of peace’ where the congregations shake hands during mass. While some Anglican churches have suspended handshakes during communion due to the spread of Ebola.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lagos Adewale Martins also released a statement on Sunday suspending the exchange of peace and ordered that Holy Water vessels placed at the entrance of churches be removed to prevent. Catholic priests are to distribute the host after it has been intincted in the chalice, but are to refrain from touching the tongues of communicants, Archbishop Martins said.