By Harriet Chikandiwa

Easter is arguably the most important day of the Christian calendar, but this year churches have to re-draw their plans thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Just 18 days or so before Palm Sunday, the day Catholics celebrate Palm Sunday — the end of Lent and the day Jesus rode on a donkey to Jerusalem — President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the
novel coronavirus a state of disaster and barred gatherings of more than 100 people.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Traditionally, Catholics parade through the town carrying palms celebrating the end of Lent, but this year, they may not be allowed to do so.

While across the world some churches have resorted to online sermons, this is uncharted territory for Zimbabwean parishes.

Catholic bishop, Patrick Ngwenya said this year they will not be holding mass gatherings, literally an Easter with a difference.

“We cannot take the risk, this has been declared a global pandemic so we are not prepared to face the consequences, we have guidelines from the Catholic bishops and the state and we are going to abide by that, we stand guided guided by the number of people and we are not going to have mass gatherings for Easter celebrations we will abide by what was said and the guidelines from the bishops,” he said wistfully.

Zimbabwean Anglicans are yet to make a decision, with Anglican diocese spokesperson, Samuel Doma saying they are still to meet to discuss the way forward.

Pentecostal Assembly bishop Caiphus Mafurutse described the situation as “not easy”.

“It’s not any easy thing, it’s a testing time for the body of Christ and this has never happened in the history of the church but because of what is happening around the globe you can’t take a risk,” he said.

“Prevention is better than cure.

“Easter celebrations are huge globally and some will be visiting us, it’s going to be difficult but people have to obey what the President says and also try to limit numbers.”

So far, Zimbabwe has not recorded a single case of the virus.

Worldwide, 220 229 cases have been confirmed, while 8 981 deaths have been recorded due to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.