By Glazyl Masculino
BACOLOD CITY – The dioceses of Bacolod, Kabankalan, and San Carlos in Negros Occidental, and Dumaguete in Negros Oriental announced on Saturday the suspension of all public masses starting March 14 until further notice due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019) threat in the country.
In Circular Letter No. 927-05-2020 signed by Bishop Julito Cortes and Fr. Carmeltio Limbaga Jr., chancellor, all the reverend clergy and consecrated persons in the Diocese of Dumaguete were directed to cancel the masses, liturgies, and related ceremonies, starting March 14, including Sundays, and the 400th anniversary of the Cathedral Parish on Tuesday until further notice.
The Diocese said that COVID-19 was quite alarming, following one positive case of the disease in Tayasan town after a councilor’s travel to Manila late February.
Priests will continue to say daily masses in their parish churches with only a handful of needed and healthy attendees like lectors, acolytes, choir, regulated by the safety protocols, especially social distancing.
For parishes in far-flung areas like mountain barangays unlikely to be affected by COVID-19, the Diocese has left it to the prudent judgment of the pastors to decide whether to continue with regular public masses or not.
The Diocese of Dumaguete includes the provinces of Negros Oriental and of Siquijor, excluding two cities and two municipalities in Negros Oriental.
The provincial government of Negros Oriental also announced that there was no lock down in the province, contrary to reports circulating online.
Meanwhile, Bishop Patricio Buzon of the Diocese of Bacolod, also issued the same, informing parishes and chaplaincies all over the diocese that the celebration of Sunday and daily masses are suspended starting March 15 until further notice.
For his part, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the San Carlos Diocese, in a Circular No. 2020-7, also directed all parish priests, administrators, rectors, chaplains, religious priests, consecrated persons, lay faithful in the diocese that there will be no public celebration of the Holy Mass and no public activities such as the Way of the Cross, Kumpisalang Bayan, Pilgrimage, or area masses, recollections, seminars, and the like in all the churches in the dioceses effective March 14.
For wake and funeral masses, the bereaved family may submit to the parish office the name of the departed loves ones to be included in the private masses of their parish priest.
Scheduled weddings may be celebrated under the discretion of the couple, but with guests numbering no more than 50. Proper distancing and sanitation should be strictly observed as monitored by the ministry of ushers.
Other sacraments and sacramental celebration in the parish like baptism, confirmation or house blessing shall be canceled for this period.All parish priests are encouraged to celebrate private mass alone or with only one server.
Alminaza said that priests should make themselves available for individual confessions and pastoral care of the sick but still follow the necessary health precautions issued b the Department of Health (DOH) and the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Church bells are to be rung at 6 a.m., 12 noon, and 6 p.m. to pray the Angelus and the Oratio Imperata, he added.
The San Carlos Diocese covers the first and second districts of Negros Occidental, and four places from the first district of Negros Oriental, including cities of Canlaon and Guihulngan, municipalities of Vallehermoso and La Libertad.
On the other hand, Bishop Louie Galbines of the Diocese of Kabankalan through Fr. Carlos Ybesate also made the same announcement on Saturday.
All the faithful are instructed and encouraged to attend masses, especially on Sundays via radio, live streaming, television, and other stations.