Monday, 21 September 2020 13:07

Parishes put up specialized health protocols as Churches reopen

Earlier in September, the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) has eased the restrictions on religious gatherings allowing up to 10% of seating capacity of churches and other places of worship under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

Most Rev. Broderick S. Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of Manila issued earlier a Pastoral Instruction called “Protocol for religious services in the Archdiocese of Manila.” The document provided some guidelines to make the religious gatherings safe and do not contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

Responding to the 10% seating capacity restriction, San Fernando de Dilao Parish in Paco, Manila has implemented measures, on top of the minimal health protocol, as to how to keep religious gatherings safe in their church.

“The faithful are requested to register if they want to attend Mass. If they are walk in, they should fill-up the contact tracing form located at the door of the church and upon entering the church, ushers will direct them to their assigned seats, and the faithful are reminded to maintain a one –meter physical distancing from one another,” Fr. Carlo Del Rosario, parochial vicar of San Fernando de Dilao Parish told the Archdiocese of Manila – Office of Communications.

Photo Credit: The Manila Cathedral

During communion, he said, the faithful remained in their seats and the priest and minister will approach them and distribute communion by hand. Prior to that he said, the Greeters and Collectors Ministers and the ushers sanitize their hands.

After the Mass the faithful are not allowed to go out randomly, rather they are led row by row to the exit doors of the church at the side because the main doors only serve as the entrance.

Fr. Del Rosario also stressed that all the ministers follow and observe the prescribed safety and health protocols. Lectors and cantors as well as the priests have their own respective microphone cover.

At the Manila Cathedral, there is no more registration of those who wish to attend mass. The faithful may attend on a first come first serve basis until maximum capacity is reached. The attendees are required to wear not just a face mask but also a face shield.

According to Fr. Reginald Malicdem, rector of Manila Cathedral, they see the online registration as a “disadvantage” to some because many of their mass goers are not familiar or knowledgeable with online operations.

“Itong sa Manila Cathedral medyo basic palang yung ginagawa namin like paper and pen then kanya kanyang ballpen, kanya kanyang papel sa pagsulat. Although we are looking at it at gawin nang online, pero pinag-aaralan din namin kasi may mga mass goers talaga na hindi marunong sa online. Disadvantage yun siyempre kung gusto nila magsimba pero kung halimbawa hindi naman sila marunong sa QR code, mahihirapan sila,” Fr. Malicdem said.

He said that even though the cathedral has a maximum capacity of 2,200 (including monoblock chairs), they only accommodate 80 persons (counting the wooden pews) inside the Cathedral. The Cathedral, according to him, has made the necessary coordination with the Intramuros Administration to provide tents at the Plaza Roma, the park in front of the church, for those who will not be able to come inside and there they can also receive communion.

For Quiapo Church, following the 10% seating capacity, it is able to accommodate 200 mass goers that can come inside the church maintaining a 1-2 meters physical distancing both on seating and standing positions, said Fr. Danichi Hui, parochial vicar of the church.

Fr. Hui added that they have provided a medic area inside the church and they disinfect the whole church every after mass or after churchgoers leave. A mass goer also fills up a contract tracing form as part of the measure.

“Before the people leave the place after a mass, the ushers of the church direct them according to their seating arrangements. The people cannot go out unless the church’s ushers would tell them so to avoid crowding the exit gates,” said Fr. Hui.

Quiapo Church provides huge LED monitors outside the church for those faithful who will not be allowed to come inside to hear Mass while observing proper physical distancing.

After the government lifted some restrictions on religious activities, many parishes in the country are still in lockdown due to continuous coronavirus cases.

Earlier in September, three parishes in the Archdiocese of Manila announced its temporary closure because some of its staff fell ill with the virus.

Amidst the lockdowns and temporary closures, the parishes in the Archdiocese are doing their best to open and make available a place where people can pray and contribute to their spiritual support and peace of mind.

“The church is doing everything para mapanatiling ligtas, maayos, mapanatili pa rin ang kasagraduhan ng pagdiriwang ng bawat banal na misa. Patuloy tayong magdasal na matatapos din ang lahat ng ito, na sa awa ng Diyos, ipagdasal natin na sa madaling panahon ay magkaroon tayo ulit ng biyayang magkatipun tipon na magkakasama na,” said Fr. Del Rosario. (Jheng Prado/RCAM-AOC)


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