Circular No. 2022 – 03
5 January 2022
TO: ALL CLERGY IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF MANILA
RE: ON IMPLEMENTING LOCKDOWN OF CHURCHES
Dear Reverend Monsignori and Fathers:
Greetings of peace of the Lord!
As the COVID-19 cases escalate due to the Omicron variant, I would like to reiterate the following points which were agreed upon during the 5 January 2022 Presbyteral Council meeting to protect God’s people entrusted to our pastoral care.
- Sacraments and other religious activities are essential for the faithful, and, taking into consideration health protocols, they must not be deprived of their spiritual nourishment during these difficult times of fear and despair. We encourage you to continue and strengthen your on-line Masses.
- We entrust the implementation of lockdown of Churches to the pastoral prudence and discernment of parish priests, ad casum (case-to-case basis), in consultation with the parish pastoral council, Local Government Units, health authorities and other concerned government agencies.
- We encourage our parishes to continue taking care of the poor in our communities through our feeding programs and community pantries/kindness stations.
- We would like to reiterate #10 of the COVID-19 Guide prepared by the Ministry on Health Care, issued in October 2020, on implementing lockdown of parish offices which can also be used in considering the implementation of church lockdown:
GUIDANCE ON KEEPING PARISH OFFICES OPEN & IMPLEMENTING LOCKDOWN
In instances where uncontrolled COVID-19 transmission may be occurring in a Parish Office or RCAM unit, it may be necessary to close the office for several days (lockdown) and stop work. However, lockdown of a parish office can be prevented if minimum health standards are maintained. Locking down a parish office is an extreme intervention and should be considered carefully.
- What health and safety measures should be enforced in every parish office and RCAM office?
a. Practice proper personal hygiene: frequent hand-washing, wearing of masks, wearing of face shields, respiratory etiquette, no spitting.
b. Regular disinfection of furniture, office spaces, equipment.
c. Enforce physical distancing among staff members and among staff and visitors
d. Restrict mass gatherings.
e. Limit in-person transactions as much as possible; promote on-line transactions.
f. Re-engineer office lay-out to provide 2-meter distance or more distance between workers.
g. Re-engineer office so transactions with public can be done across glass partitions/windows.
h. Stagger work hours and meal times to reduce in-person interaction.
i. Ensure proper ventilation of in-door spaces by opening windows and doors that lead to open spaces.
j. Take temperatures of all staff daily, whether they live in office dormitories or commute to work daily.
k. Staff to
– complete Daily Self-Health Check (cf. Annex E) BEFORE going to work;
– stay home and isolate oneself when symptoms of COVID-19 infection appear, though minor it may be.
– inform the office so that proper measures can be undertaken.
- When should temporary closure of a parish office (lockdown) be undertaken as a result of COVID-19 infection?
a. When a confirmed case has led to exposure by close contact of EVERYONE in the office, temporary closure of the parish office may be undertaken. In other words, everyone in the office is considered a case or a close contact and has to either
1) go into isolation because s/he is symptomatic or
2) go into quarantine because s/he is a close contact. Because of this situation, there is no one who can work in the parish office.
Let us be extra careful during this time. Let us unite ourselves in prayer.
I assure you of my blessing and pastoral solicitude.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ JOSE F. CARDINAL ADVINCULA
Archbishop of Manila