The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene or Quiapo Church in Manila is already prepared for the Ash Wednesday observance on Feb. 17.
“We are ready. The order of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines is to sprinkle the ashes on the head of the faithful to avoid contact,” Father Douglas Badong, parochial vicar of Quiapo Church, said in a radio interview Monday, Feb. 15.
Priests usually impose ashes on the forehead of the faithful during Ash Wednesday, but this ritual changed due to the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Badong said priests will be the ones who will approach the faithful to sprinkle the ashes.
“They need not fall in line because the lay minister or priest will go to them to sprinkle the ashes on head,” he said.
It is the same, Badong said, during Holy Communion.
“The minister go to them to distribute communion…we want less movement,” he said.
Badong said they are also ready to accommodate more people inside the church.
“Quiapo is ready to accommodate 50 percent. We have long been prepared. We are just waiting for the signal as to when we are allowed to accommodate 500 people inside,” he said.
In a separate radio interview, Father Victorino Cueto of Baclaran Church, meantime, said they will slowly increase the number of faithful inside the church as a safety precaution.
On Ash Wednesday, he said, they are also planning to increase the number of ushers and security guards to guide the faithful and implement the minimum health standard.
Starting Feb. 15, churches in the country’s capital region will now be allowed to open up to 50 percent of their capacity for worshippers.
The government’s COVID-19 task force has eased the current limit of 30 percent of capacity for churches in areas under the general community quarantine.
Authorities also allowed the opening of more businesses like cinemas, museums, and tourist places like theme parks and historical landmarks.