By Fredrick Nzwili
NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — An Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo last month has led Roman Catholics to stop administering several sacraments temporarily in an attempt to keep the deadly disease from spreading.
Catholics will not be baptized, confirmed, ordained or anointed until further notice in the country’s northwestern regions hardest hit by the outbreak, which has claimed at least 25 lives since May 8, when the outbreak was first confirmed. The new regulations cover the Archdiocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, which spans about 59,000 miles. Some 650,000 of the region’s 1.2 million residents are Catholics, according to church statistics.
Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, apostolic administrator for the archdiocese, announced the order suspending the use of sacraments that require physical contact to administer. A May 30 diocesan statement said the purpose is to prevent the spread of Ebola virus disease, also known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever. The disease has infected one priest so far, but he has recovered, according to Besungu.