MEMBERS of the Baptist, Hindu and Catholic faiths say the warning about public gatherings issued on Wednesday by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith will in no way affect their major celebrations beginning this Sunday – Palm Sunday.
Ahead of Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day, Easter and Phagwa, Griffith said he will no longer be granting any group or person permission to hold public vigils and/or marches.
He cited the sharp spike in covid19 cases as the reason for his decision, observing that at some of the previous gatherings for which permission was granted to hold vigils, protests, meetings and marches, people may have breached the public health protocols.
The ending of March and first weekend in April will see the observance of major celebrations by three religious denominations, which normally attract large public gatherings.
However, for the second time in as many years, the religious bodies say they are limiting their in-person activities in an effort to curb the covid spread.
Palm Sunday and Good Friday, observed by Christians, are scheduled for March 27 and April 2 respectively. Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day will be observed on March 30 and the Hindu festival of Holi or Phagwa is on April 4.
Palm Sunday and Good Friday are usually celebrated with processions, including the stations of the cross – re-enacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at Calvary.
RC archbishop Jason Gordon has advised his members that at this time, co-ordinated mass gatherings for the procession of worshippers are not permitted.
Msgr Christian Pereira said at his La Romaine parish, there would be no procession on either of the days, nor any washing of the feet on Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday.
In keeping with Gordon's protocol on how to sanitise and distribute palms on Palm Sunday, Pereira said palms would be blessed and carefully distributed by altar servers.
He said parishioners will not be going to San Fernando Hill, as is customary, to participate in the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, but it will be done inside the church and in the churchyard.
The La Romaine church will be open from 4 am on Good Friday for parishioners to attend as families do the Stations of the Cross and then leave, to allow more families time.
Gordon has said no more than three people should lead the prayers if the Stations of the Cross are being done inside the church. He said Stations of the Cross can also be done in a motorcade.
With just days before Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day, members of the faith would usually have held public services culminating in a huge service and rally on March 30.
Archbishop Leon John Williams of the West Indian United Spiritual Baptist Organisation (WIUSBO) has advised his members to stay at home, dance and sing as they watch live streams of a few physical services on YouTube.
Vijay Maharaj, head of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, said in keeping with the health protocols his organisation has also decided to defer the public observance in communities or the spraying of abeer on April 4.
He said live plays will be recorded at the temples in Fyzabad and Sangre Grande and shown on TV Jaagriti.
Maharaj said although the world is experiencing a pandemic this does not mean “we cannot partake in our religious festivals. We are doing it while adhering to all health protocols.
“I do wish the Hindu community and the rest of the country a happy Holi, happy Phagwa, and hopefully next year we would be in a better place.”