by Margaux Salcedo
On Monday, March 9, Bishop Broderick Pabillo issued a Pastoral Letter in response to the rising numbers of positive cases of COVID-19.
Read the full letter in the official website of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila: rcam.org.
In summary, here are the precautionary measures advised by the Archdiocese of Manila's Apostolic Administrator:
1. There will be no more:
(1) Dipping of hands in Holy Water or Stoup
Suspend the practice of dipping of hands in the Holy Water Font or Stoup. Empty all Fonts and let the faithful be informed that such practice will be temporarily suspended. Holy water can be made available for people to take home or sprinkling of the Holy Water can be done before or after liturgical gatherings.
(2) Holding hands during the Lord's Prayer and Peace Be With You
Remind all that we need not hold hands when praying the Lord’s Prayer and when giving the sign of peace.
(3) Kissing and holding of statues and sacred images
Until the virus is overcome all should refrain from the kissing and holding of statues and sacred images, and even the glass frames that protect them. Let barriers be installed so that people do not get near them to touch them.
2. There will be:
(1) Alcohol at church entrance
Let containers of 70% Ethyl Alcohol be located at various entrance doors accessible to the public in our church institutions.
(2) TV Masses
(The faithful) can sanctify the Lord’s Day by praying in their homes and reading the Scriptures. TV masses are available for them to watch at the Quiapo Church Facebook and website as well as TV Maria. Radio Veritas also airs Masses regularly and other parishes have their own video streaming facilities.
(3) Holy Communion by hand
For the time being, Holy Communion is to be received by the faithful by hand.
3. There may be:
(1) Suspension of public gatherings
Let the parishes be prepared for the economic effects of the COVID 19 phenomenon. Worst case scenario would be the suspension of public gatherings.
4. Reminders to priests and servers:
(1) Priests and lay ministers with flu-like symptoms should refrain from serving
Priests and lay ministers who have flu-like symptoms should also refrain from serving. This is an act of charity that we can offer to the people.
(2) Routinely disinfect church
Routinely clean with disinfectants the high touch areas, pews, benches, door knobs as well as microphone covers.
(3) Thoroughly wash hands before serving
Let ministers and priests thoroughly wash their hands before they serve. ... While we trust in the Lord and fall on our knees to beg for his mercy, let us also stand on our feet to act and wash our hands to keep ourselves fit to serve Him and His people.
(4) Biomist enclosed churches and Adoration Chapels
Churches and adoration chapels with air conditions and hardly any windows should be biomisted. Air Purifier perhaps may be of help but it will be very expensive and there is no clear evidence of its effectivity in large areas like churches. Open windows and doors after mass and shut off the air conditioning in order for the air, heat and sunlight to circulate.
(5) Collectors must wear masks and use alcohol
The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that the coronavirus may spread through money. Those who count the money must wear mask and use alcohol after counting. It is good that they be provided with latex gloves.
We need to save at this time of impending crisis. Let us make our church institutions resilient. At this time, let expenses be made only in what is essential in order to save for any eventualities. Let us suspend purchases on capital expenditures and make our programs frugal. What we can save, let us put in a Disaster Resiliency Fund.
5. Reminders to the faithful:
(1) Stay home and/or get medical attention if sick or with flu-like symptoms and cough
Advise the faithful to stay home when they are sick with flu-like symptoms and cough. They should get medical attention for their good and the good of their family members. Signages may be posted to this effect in prominent places.
(2) Observe cough etiquette (cover your mouth)
All should take care to observe cough etiquette (like covering their mouth with their sleeves or napkins which they should immediately dispose in safe places.)
(3) Wash your hands
Frequent hand washing is to be promoted to all.
(4) Wear masks
Those parishioners who are weak or have non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer, etc. are encouraged to wear masks even during Holy Mass.
(5) Bow instead of 'mano'
For the time being, the beautiful Filipino sign of reverence in holding the hands of the priests and the elderly (the Mano Po) can be substituted by a slight bow with a smile or by a slight touch on the head for the giving of the blessing.
(6) Intensify our prayers
I encourage all to intensify our prayers to ask for Divine protection and intervention. Faith can avert evil.