By Leslie Ann Aquino
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) asked prelates on Wednesday to consider with great priority the safety and health of the faithful.
CBCP president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles issued the call following the declaration of a state of public health emergency in the country due to the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
In a circular letter, the prelate said each local bishop must “discern” as the health department strongly urged to cancel, postpone, or suspend all gatherings of a great number of people.
Since the coronavirus continues to affect a greater number of the population causing fear, anxiety, and genuine concern, Valles said: “We need to take all of these seriously.”
“In the face of this worldwide pandemic, we are demanded to exercise vigilance as a Church, lest our churches become venues of transmission of the disease,” he said.
The CBCP recommended precautionary measure during this time of crisis such as discouraging the sick and immune-compromised individuals from attending masses and other church activities.
“Taking the basic steps of wellness as recommended by the health authorities is not only sensible, but wise and considerate of others. In truth, it is an expression of genuine charity,” Valles said.
He said vulnerable populations like the elderly, those who are immune-compromised, may view the celebration of Holy Mass on television and the social media.
Liturgical spaces, he said should be disinfected or sanitized after every liturgical service and hand sanitizers should be placed at the doors of churches for the use of church goers.
Valles said the reception of Holy Communion by hand will continue to be implemented as he reminded priests and lay ministers to wear face masks when giving communion as a protection for themselves and the communicants.
Holy water fonts at the doors or entrances of churches, he said should be emptied during this time of crisis.
Valles said as for confessions, it should be done in the Confessionals with a protective cloth installed at the grill.
It also said that churches must refrain from passing the donation box to churchgoers during masses. Collectors should hold the collection bag and bring them to the faithful.
Valles reiterated his appeal to the faithful to refrain from kissing and touching sacred images and statues.