Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja says that the Catholic Church cannot administer its rites called Sacraments through phone or technology despite the restriction on the religious gathering.
The Federal and some state governments across the country had for some weeks now ordered a lockdown on social and religious gatherings as part of measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kaigama told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday that technology could not substitute for the presence of a priest or a minister of God who should administer the various sacraments on the faithful.
A sacrament, such as a baptism or the Eucharist, is a Christian rite that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of spiritual reality on the faithful.
The Seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church are Baptism, Eucharist (Holy Communion), Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the sick, Marriage and Holy Orders.
Kaigama said: “There are other things you can do through modern technology but the Sacraments are a bit different, you cannot receive the Holy Communion through the television or by proxy.
“The same with other Sacraments, it has to be on a one-on-one basis; the sacraments of marriage and holy order for instance, you cannot receive them by proxy or through Skype.
“You have to be physically present to receive them.
“It is just like when you are sick, you go to the doctor.
“You do not just say; Doctor, I am at home, this is my sickness and then he stays in the hospital and gives you a prescription.
“No! He has to examine you; check your temperature, he has to know what the problem is before treatment. The sacraments are administered on the faithful in the same way; they are like medicines.’’
The archbishop also said that the faithful could still have access most of the Sacraments in the Catholic Church in a controlled manner and still keep safe and maintain social distancing.
“We are obeying the guidelines by the Federal Government and we have not been gathering physically but we are having Sunday live telecasts of Masses.
“We have also adopted the reception of Holy Communion by hands and not on the tongues to avoid contact for the few people that have been attending Masses.’’
The archbishop said that a priest could still pray for a sick person and anoint him in line with the recommended health guidelines.