Updated Protocols for Liturgical Celebrations

Circular No. 2023 – 61
10 August 2023



My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We thank the Lord that the global pandemic is over, and our government has lifted the public health emergency. The pandemic has brought upon us so many difficulties, losses, and deprivations – sickness, deaths, loss of livelihood, depression, and separation from loved ones. As one doctor said, “The cruelty of COVID allowed no hugs or tearful goodbyes.” Grieving the death of fellow medical practitioners and other front liners, she said, “Many of these heroes will not be there to hear our thanks – nor the peal of wedding bells, or their child’s first word, or the sob of a daughter being walked to the altar.”

Nevertheless, there are also things that we can be more grateful for. We have discovered a sense of mission and fostered a season of selflessness. We found a new sense of purpose as many were able to spend more time with family and loved ones, and our homes have truly become domestic churches. We have developed an inner life as we confronted our fears and allowed our new selves to emerge. While we went through a time of loss and dying, it was also a time of life-giving decisions and better relationships in the family, in society, and in the Church. We have seen heroes and saints next door.

For the vibrant faith of Filipino Catholics, it was unimaginable for us that we were not able to gather in our churches for the Eucharist because of restrictions. We were prevented from having the usual exuberant celebration of fiestas, Christmas, and Holy Week because of the rise of COVID cases. “The painful and sad experience of the deprivation of our faithful of the sacramental experience,” our bishops said, “has enabled us to discover anew the necessity of the liturgical life of the church.” Our hope is that this sense of deprivation has generated in us a resolve that we will not take for granted going to Mass, receiving communion, and seeking the sacraments.

Last year, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued an exhortation entitled Encouraging the Faithful to Return to Sunday Masses in Churches. Our bishops pointed out that the “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’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 10).”

Pope Francis in his letter Desiderio Desideravi invites us to “rekindle our wonder…and rediscover the truth of the beauty of the Christian celebration” (DD, 21 & 62). Let me reiterate and remind you of the following:

  1. Celebration of the Sacraments. We thank our beloved priests and lay liturgical ministers for their courage and compassion for our people amid the pandemic. We are grateful to them for extending the charity and compassion of the Good Shepherd and making the sacraments available to our people even during difficult times. In the Audiam sa RCAM synodal sessions in our communities, this is one of the blessings our parishioners are grateful for. We continue to commit ourselves to the administration of the sacraments for the nourishment and sanctification of our people, to visiting the sick and the elderly, and to be regularly available for the Sacrament of Penance. We will continue to foster compassionate regard for the elderly and the vulnerable through the practice of appropriate health and safety protocols. The pandemic difficulties stirred us to take care of each other and by this, we will be known that we are disciples of the Lord.

To help our priests, the other Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and our parish ministry for the sick bring the compassionate solicitude of Christ and manifest faith and charity on behalf of the               whole community, we have instituted the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion for the Sick (EMHCS). Let our visits to the sick communicate to them the importance of partaking of the Body of                   Christ of those who are ill: “union with Christ in his struggle with evil, his prayer for the world, and his love for the father, and union with the community from which they are separated (Pastoral Care of                 the Sick, 73).

  1. Face Masks. The wearing of face masks in our churches will now be optional. In liturgical celebrations done outside the parish church (e.g., anointing of the sick and confession during home/sick visitation), the priest must keenly observe and properly discern when to observe safety measures for the sake of others and oneself.
  2. Sanitation of hands. Let us continue to make available the alcohol dispensers in our parish churches and venues of celebrations, transactions, meetings, and activities. We encourage everyone to make it a habit to sanitize hands before, during, and after every church activity or whenever necessary. Ministers of communion will continue to practice sanitizing their hands before distributing communion to the faithful.
  3. Holy Communion. We request our parishes and communities to re-catechize our people on the reverent reception of holy communion. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal reminds us:
    a. The faithful may receive communion “either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant” (GIRM, no. 160)
    b. “…the Lord’s body and blood should be received as spiritual food by those of the faithful who are properly disposed” (GIRM, no. 80). We encourage our parishioners to have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance.
    c. The communion minister “raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, The Body of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen” (GIRM, no.161).
    d. “When receiving holy communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the body of the Lord from the minister… as soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes the whole of it” (GIRM, no. 160).
    e. “It is not permitted for the faithful to take the consecrated bread or the sacred chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them on from one to another among themselves” (GIRM, no. 160).
    f. “It is most desirable that the faithful, just as the priest himself is bound to do, receive the Lord’s body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass…so that even by means of the signs communion may stand out more clearly as a participation in the sacrifice actually being celebrated” (GIRM, no. 85)
    g. During concelebrations, communion by intinction will be practiced as provided by GIRM, no. 249.
  4. Sign of Peace. During the giving of the Sign of Peace, “all express to one another peace, communion, and charity” (GIRM, no. 154) through a bow, a handshake, and for family members through a kiss or an embrace. All these must be done with solemnity, grace, prudence, and charity.
  5. Masses outside the Church. Masses held in private houses are permitted only on two occasions namely: for gravely ill persons and Funeral Masses when the bodily remains or cremated remains of the dead are still present in the house (in corpore presente). Pastors must ensure that Masses outside the Church, like street or barangay Masses, are celebrated with dignity and according to liturgical norms.
  6. Proper vestments. Having received observations from our parishioners, may we remind our priests that the principal celebrant of the Mass must always wear the alb, the stole, and the chasuble (GIRM, no. 337). Concelebrants may likewise wear the alb, stole, and chasuble or “simply wear the stole over the alb” (GIRM, no. 209). The other ministers wear albs or other approved attire (GIRM, no. 119) with the consideration that this is a reminder of our baptismal dignity and that lay ministry is a fruition of baptismal grace.
  7. Eucharistic Adoration. Pope Francis has issued an urgent call to intensify the practice of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in our churches. Our parishes have already opened the Adoration Chapels with consideration for proper ventilation and the observance of necessary health and safety protocols.

We reiterate the call of our bishops for the faithful “to return to the Sunday Eucharist with a purified heart, with renewed amazement, with an 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.”



Sincerely yours in Christ,

 Archbishop of Manila




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