STARTING Wednesday, March 18, 2020, all public Masses and other religious gatherings in the Archdiocese of Cebu have been suspended indefinitely or until it becomes safe again for the congregation to gather.
For now, Cebu parishes will have to celebrate mass without their parishioners.
In a circular dated Tuesday, March 17, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma also suspended processions, pilgimages, conferences, recollections and other services that gather people together in big numbers.
The directive includes the celebration of fiestas in the barrios and parishes if these occasions fall within the period of suspension.
It was issued after consultations with medical experts on microbiology and infectious diseases and in consideration of the updated CBCP Circular on Covid-19 dated March 13, 2020, and the latest Executive Orders issued by Cebu City and the Province of Cebu respectively.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Palma asked parishioners to stay home for now and instead avail of televised Holy Masses, which will be broadcast live in different television networks especially on Sundays.
Masses will also be aired on radio stations, Palma said.
“SInce our faithful are advised to stay home, parishes are to initiate the full use of social media and the Internet in streaming live the Eucharistic celebrations and other religious events,” read part of Palma’s directive.
“During these difficult times, our faithful are not morally obliged to physically attend Sunday Masses and Holy Days of Obligation in the parishes. The Archbishop will be exercising his prerogative to dispense the faithful from said celebrations; hence, no sin is committed by those who merely stay at home and observe a spiritual disposition by acknowledging the presence of God in their respective homes,” Palma said.
As for funeral masses, they can be celebrated inside the parishes, “without singing,” and only immediate family members are allowed to be present.
Palma said Holy Week will continue as scheduled from April 5-12, but the parishes will have to conduct the yearly observance without their parishioners.
Parishes are encouraged to distribute booklets, prepared by the Commission on Worship, to their parishioners to guide them through their Holy Week reflections.
Despite the suspension of public masses, parishes have been told by Palma to keep open their churches to the people if they wish to pray.
“Those who want to enter churches must do so with regard to the practice of social distancing,” Palma said.
Baptisms and weddings are to be deferred unless the principle of “Omnia Parata” (prepared in all things) applies and a delay becomes grossly disadvantageous and impractical.
In this case, “the pastor, by his due discretion, may administer the Sacraments but should limit the number of people attending, and social distancing is strictly to be observed,” said Palma.
“We know it means sacrifice, understanding, cooperation and a lot of prayer,” Palma told reporters during the press conference.
Palma also called on parishes to ring church bells at 12 noon and 8 p.m. to remind the faithful to pray the Oratio Imperata against the Covid-19.
Last Monday, March 16, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia met with representatives of the Cebu Archdiocese, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Islamic Center of Cebu, Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).
While the Catholic Church has decided to air Masses on television, radio and Facebook in the meantime, the UCCP and Seventh Day Adventists at Bradford Church will also take the same measures.
“The INC, however, asked for time because they will still have to inform their leaders. I pointed out that since there is an enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila, perhaps even their central office is already practicing the suspension of all gatherings,” Garcia told reporters.
“For all other gatherings apart from funerals, such as weddings, if it’s true love, it can wait. Love can wait,” Garcia added.
As of Tuesday night, the Department of Health-Central Visayas (DOH 7) reported 726 persons under monitoring (PUMs) and 52 patients under investigation (PUIs) in Central Visayas are undergoing a 14-day quarantine.
DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas said of the 726 PUMs, 391 are in Negros Oriental, 160 in Bohol, 50 in Cebu, and four in Siquijor.
Of the cities in Central Visayas, Lapu-Lapu City has 41 PUMs; Cebu City, 40; and Mandaue, 36.
Of the 52 PUIs, Negros Oriental has 13, Cebu Province has six; Bohol, five and Siquijor, three. There are 13 PUIs in Mandaue City, 10 in Cebu City, and two in Lapu-Lapu City.
In Metro Manila, two more confirmed Covid-19 cases succumbed to the illness on Tuesday night, raising the number of fatalities nationwide to 14.
The DOH said PH126, a 76-year-old Filipino male with Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertensive Cardiovascular Disease died at the Adventist Medical Center in Manila due to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and severe pneumonia.
The second fatality, identified only as PH129, a 67-year-old Filipino male who had hypertension, was found positive of Covid-19 last March 15. He died at the Lung Center of the Philippines after suffering from ARDS secondary to Covid-19 and community-acquired pneumonia.
DOH reported 45 new cases of the Covid-19, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 187 Tuesday.
A DOH director, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Baliwag, Bulacan Mayor Ferdie Estrella and actor Christopher de Leon are among those with Covid-19.
The agency also said four patients in the Philippines including PH25, a 31-year-old Filipino male from Negros Oriental, had recovered.
Globally, Covid-19 has killed more than 4,000 people and infected more than 100,000 in over 100 countries. (JCT/JPM/PAC/RTF/NDT/LMY/SunStar Philippines)