Circular No. 22-36 14 October 2022
TO ALL THE BISHOPS AND THE DIOCESAN ADMINISTRATORS
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies and Reverend Administrators,
Subject: Encouraging the Faithful to Return to Sunday Masses in Churches
On March 13, 2020 we issued a circular saying that, “Depending on the given circumstances, the Local Ordinaries may exercise their prerogative to dispense the faithful from the Sunday and the Holy Days of Obligation” (cf. Circular No. 20-14, n.2). In the same Circular Letter, we also pushed for providing the celebration of the Eucharist through virtual means by internet, radio and television. This decision was the result of the government’s stricter measures to stem the spread of Covid-19 virus.
The social distancing that was needed to prevent the spread of the virus had repercussions on the fundamental trait of Christian life: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Mt. 18:20); “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And all who believed were together and had all in common” (Acts 2:42-44). The weekly gathering in the “name of the Lord”, which from the very beginning has been perceived by Christians as an indispensable reality and indissolubly linked to their identity, was severely undermined during the most acute phase of the spread of the pandemic. In response to the difficulty brought about by the pandemic, our pastors and lay faithful explored other creative ways to nourish the communion of faith with the Lord and with their brothers and sisters, while waiting to return to the fullness of the Eucharistic celebration in peace and safety. It was a difficult and painful time illuminated by the mystery of the Lord’s Cross and fruitful in many works of care, fraternal love and service to the people who suffered most from the consequences of the health emergency. (Message of Pope Francis to the 71 Settimana Liturgica 2021).
The painful and sad experience of the deprivation of our faithful of the sacramental experience has enabled us to discover anew the necessity of the liturgical life of the Church as the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium teaches us: “The importance of the divine liturgy for the life of Christians, who find therein that objective mediation required by the fact that Jesus Christ is not an idea or a sentiment, but a living Person, and his Mystery a historical event. The prayer of Christians passes through tangible mediations: Sacred Scripture, the Sacraments, liturgical rites, the community. In Christian life, the corporeal and material sphere cannot be disregarded, because in Jesus Christ it became the way of salvation. We could say that we should pray with the body too: the body enters into prayer” (Pope Francis, General Audience, 3 February 2021).
With gratitude to God, the pandemic has weakened, and our official health experts have placed the country into more relaxed health protocols. This has made our people move freely and return to their normal life and business with ease, but still following some basic health protocols.
These circumstances permit and oblige us to return to the normality of Christian life, which has the Church building as its home of the celebration of the liturgy, especially the Eucharist, as “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed, at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (SC, 10).
The faithful are to hold the Eucharist in highest honor, taking active part in the celebration, receiving the sacrament devoutly and frequently, and worshipping it with supreme adoration (Can. 898).
Sunday is a day in which the faithful gather “so that by hearing the Word of God, and taking part in the eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, resurrection and glorification of the Lord Jesus, and may thank God” (SC, 106) Can. 1247.
We therefore recommend to all the local ordinaries that:
We strongly encourage our faithful to return to the Sunday Eucharist with a purified heart, renewed amazement, and increased desire to meet the Lord, to be with him, to receive him and bring him to our brothers and sisters with the witness of a life full of faith, love and hope.
We evaluate and study the needed frequency of celebrations of the Holy Eucharist by live streaming. Greater coordination in the diocese is needed on this issue. In view of this, we keep in mind the Letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to all the bishops, saying: “As much as the means of communication perform a valued service to the sick and those who are unable to go to church, and have performed a great service in the broadcast of Holy Mass at a time when there was no possibility of community celebrations, no broadcast is comparable to personal participation or can replace it. On the contrary, these broadcasts alone risk distancing us from a personal and intimate encounter with the incarnate God who gave himself to us not in a virtual way, but really, saying: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56). “This physical contact with the Lord is vital, indispensable, irreplaceable” (CDWDS, “Let us return to the Eucharist with joy!”, Letter to all the bishops, 3 September 2020)
Health protocols are still to be implemented in our parish churches and venues for the liturgical celebrations. We make sure that our faithful are convinced that they are safe in our churches and venues for the liturgical celebrations.
The “Act of Spiritual Communion” is a devotional prayer. It is not a liturgical prayer, therefore it should not be prayed aloud when communion is received by the faithful in attendance in our celebrations. The “Act of Spiritual Communion” is intended for those who are following the celebration online. It is better projected on the screen for those following the Mass online.
The constant catechesis on the necessity of our faithful to return to our churches for the Sunday Eucharist should be explained in our homilies and in our catechesis. (Can. 898)
May God through the loving intercession of Our Lady, Health of the Sick, continue to deliver us!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+PABLO VIRGILIO S. DAVID, D.D. Bishop of Kalookan CBCP President