The Zion Christian Church (ZCC), which is the largest African-initiated church operating across southern Africa, has called on congregants to put their plans to go to the House of Moria in Limpopo on hold.
This ahead of the annual Easter pilgrimage as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in South Africa, ZCC spokesperson, Emanuel Motolla, told News24 on Tuesday evening.
The decision comes after the church was briefed by a government delegation led by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
A meeting is scheduled to be held this the weekend to provide members with more information about Covid-19.
The ZCC invited Mkhize to a meeting on Friday to create awareness around the coronavirus and how the church could mitigate its spread as concerns grow.
"[Amid] concerns about the confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country, the ZCC invited Mkhize to the church to brief it about the impact of the disease - how the national government was handling it, the necessary precautionary measures required and how the ZCC could help in mitigating the impact of the pandemic," Motolla said.
He added about 10 million people on average gathered in Moria every year, and the church did not want to put their lives at risk or do anything to spread the virus.
"Ten million members are spread across southern Africa and Europe, especially the United Kingdom which is a popular transit point for citizens of the European Union - the epicentre of the pandemic outside China.
"On average, 10 million ZCC members gather in Moria for the Easter weekend pilgrimage every year, and as a church we do not want to risk their lives or do anything that may escalate the spread of the pandemic," Motolla said.
He added structures had already been advised to practice social distancing and "pray in their respective localities and homes".
They have also been instructed to observe all precautionary measures announced by the government, including the washing of hands, avoiding unnecessary travel and the gathering of 100 people or more.
"[ZCC leader Barnabas Lekganyane] has called on all his members to pray for this pandemic and work together with civil society, religious organisations and the authorities to limit the spread of Covid-19.
"A new date for the pilgrimage will be announced once normalcy returns to the country," Motolla said.
"We are informing you the people and the groups who come to Moria on the weekends via buses, we are asking you to put on hold coming to Moria until further notice," the ZCC officially said in a statement issued on Tuesday after it had informed churchgoers.