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Thousands of faithful gather as Angolan church reopens

Thousands of Angolan Christians attended a church service in Luanda on Sunday, their first since coronavirus restrictions forced them to stay home six months ago.

Members of the congregation raise their hands in prayer at the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ In the World during the Sunday service in Luanda on September 20, 2020. - Thousands of congregants gathered at a mega Church in Luanda for the first religious celebrations since March 2020 when gathering were banned on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Osvaldo Silva / AFP
At least 3,000 parishioners dressed in white gathered at the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ In the World, also known as the Tocoist Church.

They sat on chairs arranged around a metre (yard) apart for an open air service at the mega church in the Golfe II suburb.

The service lasted 90 minutes, much shorter than the traditional five hours, an AFP photographer said.

Religious gatherings were banned in March when Angola's government imposed restrictions to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

It has infected more than 3,900 people in Angola and killed at least 147 to date.

Early this month, government announced that churches were free to resume services and celebrate mass, under strict mandatory use of face masks.

It also ordered that gatherings be held in well-ventilated spaces to limit the spread of the virus.

Face masks on and bibles in hand, parishioners orderly filed one at a time into the church complex through a gate.

Except for choir members, the worshippers sang hymns with their masks on and waved white handkerchiefs.

"Six months later! Oh yes! It's been a long time, especially for us Christians...It seems like five, six years... have passed," said a smiling Clara Cale, 57, after the service.

"We are here to celebrate our immense joy," she said.

Don Afonso Nunes, a church leader, was relieved at the decision to allow churches to resume services.

"Thanks to God, today is a great day to resume our worship and we have to celebrate," he said.

Topics: Angola , COVID-19 , church , Don Afonso Nunes , Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ In the World
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