Tuesday, 14 April 2020 08:30

Protocols for Church Gatherings proposed in view of ECQ lifting

In the second part of his Post COVID-19 Ministry reflection series, Most Rev. Broderick S. Pabillo, Archdiocese of Manila's Apostolic Administrator, proposed how parishes could start again having mass gatherings once the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is lifted in Luzon, but remaining conscious about the continued threat of Corona virus.

An important point emphasized by the Bishop is to continue to follow the social distancing protocols when the Mass or any other liturgical gatherings are celebrated again in churches. This would of course have implications.

“This can also mean the re-training of our ushers. We should get younger ones who can politely ask the people to keep social distancing. Each parish is to determine the adequate spaces to be observed between the mass attendees,” Bishop Pabillo said.

“Perhaps big celebrations should be done outdoors to follow the social distancing protocols. The churches can also invest in big LCD screens and a good outdoor sound system so that people can remain outside and still be part of the celebration,” he added.

Another safety practice that Bishop Pabillo recommends is the regular sanitation of the church and other parish buildings as well as the faithful themselves who come into the church.

“Another thing that is here to stay is our consciousness of the need for constant handwashing. A regular feature of our churches will now be the alcohol bottles or hand sanitizers that will be made ubiquitous at the door of our churches and offices. A foot bath is to be provided at the door steps of our churches and offices,” Bishop Pabillo said.

In addition, he suggested that every parish should have a “sanitation ministry” that would have the main task of disinfecting or cleaning the pews in between masses.

The Filipino custom of “mano po” (blessing the hands of elders) can also be changed. “Instead of getting the hand of the elderly or the priest and putting it on one’s forehead, or much worse, kissing the ring of the bishop,” he said, the people may opt to show their respect by a polite bow and similar gestures.

On the touching of statues which Filipinos are also fond of doing, Bishop Pabillo said that the faithful should “be educated to do without this form of reverence anymore.” He said that “a slight bow or a moment of silent prayer in front of a statue is also a worthy expression of our desire to commune with God and his saints.”

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the declaration of ECQ, the faithful are not able to receive the Sacrament of Confession. Instead, they are advised to pray an act of contrition with firm resolve until they are able to go to confession to a priest when the situation allows them to.

After the lockdown, the Bishop encourages that Vicariates and parishes should organize a "Kumpisalang Bayan" (Penitential service) where the faithful can avail of the sacrament of confession. The re-designing of confessional box should also be considered for it to give enough room for social distancing.

The prelate at the end of his reflection encourages the priests to practice other safety measures and also to give instructions to the faithful as to why these protocols have to be observed.

"Let us use our creativity on how to serve our people in the new situation that we are now in. If the new practices that we will adapt are properly explained to the people, they will understand. They will even appreciate that we are making changes so that we can serve God without jeopardizing our loved ones," he said.  (Jheng Prado/RCAM-AOC)


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