By Leslie Ann Aquino
Confession via Zoom teleconferencing and telephone are not allowed in the Archdiocese of Manila despite the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
In his pastoral instruction, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila Bishop Broderick Pabillo prohibited priests from hearing confession via telephone or Zoom teleconferencing.
In a separate interview, the prelate said this is in order to “protect the secrecy and sincerity of confession.”
Pabillo, however, allowed priests to use such methods to offer the penitents “spiritual counsel” and give a blessing.
“While a priest cannot give absolution over the phone, he can use the phone to give a blessing and even guide a person through an Act of Perfect Contrition. This is done when the person expresses faith in and love of God above all things and resolves to make a sacramental confession as soon as possible,” he said.
When the sacrament of Reconciliation is not possible such as if a patient is isolated or in quarantine, Pabillo said they can make an Act of Perfect Contrition which has always been part of Catholic tradition.
“God is always present to us, even when the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not possible,” he said.
The prelate also instructed priests to reconfigure the small confessional boxes in their parishes to allow social distancing.
If this cannot be done, Pabillo said confessions may be done outside the confessional box with one meter distance between the penitent and the priest.
He added that a special place should be designated for this where people can see that confessions are available.
Both priest and the penitent should wear face masks, said Pabillo.
Parishes, he said, can also organize “kumpisalan ng bayan” with penitential service to enable the people to come to confession, which they were not able to do last Lent.
“If there are too many people, then two or three kumpisalan na bayan can be done,” Pabillo said.
He stressed that proper social or physical distancing should be observed during the Mass.
The prelate issued the pastoral instruction so that parishes are prepared when religious services are already allowed.
Public masses have been suspended since March when the government imposed the enhanced community quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19.